<span>CHANGES FROM PREVIOUS VERSION</span>
Moved PVP-Zone Hunting to Hall of Shame.
Removed "Rock and Reroll" debt-removal method, as the more I think about it the more I just can't see how that would work at all.
Updated "Debt Cleared for Exemplary Conduct" to note the significant reduction in effectiveness due to the level-difference cap that was imposed.
Updated Hall of Shame with I8/I9 changes.
Changed various sections to adjust for game changes, grammar, and clarity.
A NOTE ON ISSUE NUMBERS: Although I do not know any more about I10 than anyone else who is not in the closed beta, from what the preview page says it does not seem likely to have any major mechanical changes. Unless there are, I will be making any I10-based updates in the form of replies to this thread rather than making a whole new revision.
A NOTE ON TERMINOLOGY: This guide contains some advice specifically for City of Villains, and most of the other techniques will probably work just as well on the City of Villains side as they do in City of Heroes. However, since this guide was originally written for CoH, and I think it would be extremely silly to go through and S&R every instance of "sidekick" with "sidekick/lackey" and so forth, I will mainly be using the City of Heroes terms for things like Influence (Infamy), sidekicking (lackeying), exemplaring (malefactoring), Task Forces (Strike Forces), and difficulty slider settings (Heroic = Villainous, etc.). The one exception to this are the Newspaper/Police Scanner missions, which I started out describing on the villain side and see no reason to change the names all around now. I apologize if this confuses any of those folks who got into the game with City of Villains and have never played City of Heroes.
So, you're sick of being stuck down at at a level you don't have to take both shoes off to count to, and you want to be up there playing with the big boys. But whenever you ask someone to powerlevel you, they look at you like you've got a big ugly wart on your nose. (Apologies to those of you who really do have big ugly warts on your noses. They have surgery for that, you know.)
Or, conversely, perhaps you've just come off of a bad Task Force experience (or otherwise had bad luck on your missions) and want to get rid of that nasty brown stain on your level counter so you can once again make rapid progress toward that next level and the shiny new superpower that comes with it.
Or maybe you're reading some thread about why powerlevelling stinks or why wolf-herding missions were nerfed and you just don't understand any of it. Or you heard someone refer to "dual-boxing" and don't know what it means, or want to know why buying pre-levelled characters from eBay is so bad.
Well, in any of these cases, this guide is for you. I'm going to explain what powerlevelling is, why some people hate it, why others do it, and so on. I'm going to lay out a few common-sense techniques I've observed for accruing XP and/or dropping debt without ticking other people off--including a section on tips for getting through the mid-40s-to-50 grind. And I'm going to go over the known "illegal" methods of power-levelling--not because I condone them, which I most certainly do NOT, but because everyone should know what they are and why they are so bad.
What is powerlevelling?
According to Wikipedia, powerlevelling is "the process of sustained, fast leveling in computer role-playing games." When used in an MMORPG context, it usually refers to using secret tips, tricks, and possibly even exploits to gain levels far faster than the game designers actually intended.
Why is everyone so down on powerlevelling, anyway?
It is easy to get the impression from the message boards that a good many people think powerlevelling is (to put it mildly) not a good thing. Its mere mention can engender such extreme suggestions as level-restricting higher-level non-hazard areas such as Peregrine Island, or limiting the number of times a given mission can be reset and repeated. Even Statesman is on record as not particularly liking it (although he has also said in the past that he doesn't see anything wrong with players trying to outsmart the developers, which is something that is most often done for the purpose of powerlevelling, so go figure).
Clearly there is a lot of built-up frustration here. But why? A perusal of message board threads on it can give you a pretty good idea--but to save you the trouble, here is a digest of what I've seen in my own perusals. There are several fundamental reasons.
1) "Where's the 'Any' key?"
The City of Heroes designers and developers have been particularly clever in the way they've laid out the levels of their game. By doling out new powers every other level (then every third level starting in the 30s), they give players rewards to work for and look forward to--but they also give players plenty of time to learn to use the powers they already have. Mission after mission, mob after mob, task force after task force--it may seem like "grinding," but it's also learning. Time and again, it has been shown that human beings learn the best not by reading or studying, but by doing repeatedly. By playing through the game, we also learn and understand how to play better.
If someone just starting out in the game gets powerlevelled to a high level before he barely even gets his feet wet, he simply does not have the time to learn how to play properly and well. He looks competent on the outside, from the level he's attained and all the powers he's gotten--but he will not know how to play his character as well as someone who took the "long way" up. He may not even know how to play his character at all (let alone the strategies for dealing with various types of villains that only show up at the higher levels)--which makes him the team's "weakest link" and can spell the difference between failure and success.
One poster told a story of encountering a level 25 Emp Defender who wasn't healing at all--and when she asked about it, the Defender's player confessed that she didn't know which one was the "heal all" button.
After talking with her for a few minutes, she told me she had gotten this game for Christmas, but hadn't been able to activate her account until last week. Her friends came over, made a character FOR her, then proceeded to get her in game, and pushed her from 1 to 25 in less than a week.
This poor girl was left with a character she was now trying to play, on her own, with no understanding of what her powers were, how to use them, nor even the basic mechanics of the game.
Others have told of meeting Kheldians--an Epic Archetype which can only be unlocked by reaching level 50--whose players are somehow ignorant of the most basic facts of the game, such as where the stores are in Talos Island. (This was before the stores were marked on the map to make them easier to find.) And almost everyone has a favorite "my team was torpedoed by a PL'd n00b who didn't know his donkey from his elbow" story. There's a lot of frustration there.
Not all powerlevellers are bad players, of course, just as not all bad players have been powerlevelled. Nonetheless, there is still a good deal of correlation between the two sets--enough for a stereotype, anyway.
2) "Hey, buddy, can you spare a dime?"
The surest way to get powerlevelled is to have friends who will do it for you.
The surest way not to get powerlevelled is to pester everyone you see about it. However, this doesn't stop just about every newbie in the game from trying. And in their rush to garner undeserved XP, they trample all over their manners. Rude and/or annoying behavior often seen in would-be powerlevellees includes:
filling broadcast/request channels with requests or sending /tell requests for powerlevelling. (Sometimes to characters who have no possible way of doing it. "I'm a Mind/Emp Controller. What am I supposed to do, make you think you're higher-level? Heal you some XP?") The l33tsp34king n00b is a cliche, but it's only a cliche because it's so true.
filling said channels or /tells with requests for people to join/bridge for wolf-herding or Kora Fruit-plucking teams, or other such ventures.
spamming unwanted /invites.
standing around in "safe" but high-traffic areas such as near the Peregrine Ferry or the Talos Tram while teammates wander around killing things, causing area lag levels to skyrocket. (The "XP range" change in I4 ended this practice.)
And I'm sure there are others that I just can't think of at the moment.
Ironically, it's mostly only the unsuccessful powerlevellees who give powerlevellers a bad name in this respect; the truly successful ones have high-level friends to help them with it, and thus no need to broadcast requests. Anyone who panhandles or otherwise annoys for powerlevelling is not too likely to get it; the higher-level people who could do it have much better things to do with their time than help out rude newbies.
3) "Content? What content? I think I blinked and missed it."
In regard to powerlevelling, Statesman once said this:
I have to say that I'm not fond of PLing. It ends up cheapening the game experience. Someone is quickly and unnaturally leveled up--and then complains that the game has "no content."
Inexplicably, there seems to be a certain class of powerlevellers who will race to the end of the game like a VCR on super-fast-forward--and then, when they get to the end, claim that the game was "too easy" and there's "not enough content." Well, sure it's easy when you don't actually have to do anything to get there, and you bypassed 95% of the content in your mad rush to level 50.
(To note, this complaint can be considered legitimate if it comes from people who have already made multiple high-level characters in more "legitimate" ways and have experienced the only available lower-level content until they're fed up with it. It's the people who have never bothered to play the game at all who are the culprits here.)
Now, the City of Heroes developers engage in "data mining" on their server logs. That is, they analyze the logs to see what people are doing and how they are doing it. This way they can tell if certain powers are too effective or not effective enough, if the game is too hard or too easy, and so forth. Some players are afraid that powerlevellers, by getting to level 50 faster than people who advance without powerlevelling, can somehow skew the data mining statistics to make the game look easier than it actually is--and this, when taken together with their vocal complaints of "too easy" and "no content," could cause the developers to make City of Heroes unplayably hard in response. These players will often point to such things as the difficulty increase of higher-level bosses in Update 3 (thankfully rolled back in a subsequent patch) as proof. Others are concerned that this skewing will lead to more endgame content being developed at the expense of lower-level content, as has happened in other MMORPGs. However, the City of Heroes developers have not as yet showed any tendancies in this direction; if anything, there is still much less endgame content than there is early- and mid-game.
It's not this guide's intent to opine whether or not these concerns are founded, just to point out that people do feel this way. Nonetheless, the devs do at least claim to base their decisions on more data than just that which they mine.
4) "Hey! No fair! You're not supposed to have more than 12 items in an express lane! The speed limit is sixty, you bum! If I have to follow the rules, then you should too!"
Finally, whether they admit it or not (even to themselves), and whether it's their main reason or not, a lot of players seem to be upset that they aren't the ones being powerlevelled. This can take the form of indignation at someone else getting so easily what they had to work for, or of envy at the PLers' high levels while they're still stuck down in the oughts or teens. It isn't so surprising, really; it's human nature to feel resentment toward a perceived injustice. Still, non-PLers should try to remember that though the powerlevellers may have attained a higher level, they did it at the cost of some of the very things that make the game so much fun for non-powerlevellers like them.
So Why Shouldn't I Powerlevel?
The intent of this guide is to present a balanced view of powerlevelling in all its forms--not to serve as a promotion of or indictment of powerlevelling. That being said, let us look at the reasons why you should not powerlevel. Depending on where you are in the game and what you are looking to get out of it, these might not apply to you.
1) City of Heroes as a Learning Experience
City of Heroes starts out pretty easy, then ramps up the difficulty slowly. Likewise, you gain your first few powers pretty quickly, but more powers increasingly slowly after that. The idea is to give you a chance to learn and grow into your powers, working out as you go along exactly how they all work and how to integrate and combine their effects with each other. Yes, it takes you a long time to play up to where the "good" powers start coming, but that's actually a good thing--by the time you get them, you'll have learned everything else pretty well and will only have to worry about learning one power at a time.
Even if you're a CoH veteran, no two archetypes--or even variations on the same archetype--play exactly the same. It would still be a good idea to play through at least the first few levels to be certain you know what you're doing.
If you haven't taken the time to learn how your character's powers work and to develop good strategies for using them, sooner or later you will get to higher levels where it's expected of you--and when you let the other members of your team down because you don't know what you're doing, they aren't going to be very happy with you.
2) Content Contentions
You're paying $15 a month for City of Heroes. (Unless you're getting discounted Auto Assault game cards from somewhere, but that's as may be.) Some people use this as a justification that they should be able to do whatever they want. After all, it's their money. Ironically, this is almost always a red flag that they're in the wrong; such people are usually willfully ignoring that whatever it is they're wanting to do impinges on the enjoyment of other people who are also paying $15 per month for the game.
But this is beside the point: you are paying good money for this game. Enough money that, for what you spend on it in a year, you could have bought a used video game console of recent vintage and had cash left over for a game or two. What, then, is the point of not getting your money's worth?
One of the buzzwords that people use a lot on the forums is "content." It's a media term; it used to refer primarily to TV shows, then webpages, and now MMORPGs are included, too. It means, basically, the stuff that you watch the show, read the webpage, or play the game for. In this case, new adventures, new mobs to fight, new things to do.
There is content all through the game, starting the moment you first appear in the Outbreak parking lot (you could even argue that the character creation process counts as content, but that's getting a bit too fiddly for this guide) and going all the way up through level 50...and then you roll another character and start all over again.
Inexplicably, some players don't want to spend the time to play the game for the first time, to experience the content all the way from the beginning to the end--and that's a real shame. Apparently all that matters to this particular type of powerleveller is having a high-level character. And if that's how they enjoy the game, I imagine that's up to them. But this sort of racing through the game is like renting a movie then fast-forwarding to the end, or checking out a library book only to read the last few pages. Sure, you get to see how it ends, but it's ultimately unsatisfying.
What's more inexplicable is that a lot of these powerlevellers will then turn around and complain that there should be more content, or that the game is "too easy." Well, the reason there's not enough content is that they skipped it all, and of course it was "easy," they didn't actually have to do anything.
Furthermore, even if you have played one character from the beginning all the way through to the end, there are enough missions out there that you still probably haven't experienced all that City of Heroes has to offer yet. And even if you have, more new zones and content are being added with each expansion, and even old missions can become "new" when you play through them with a different archetype.
If you powerlevel, you may miss out on contacts, missions, badges, temporary powers, and other things that could be helpful to you. You might end up having no contacts at all in a particular city zone (one of my characters, who levelled several times doing other peoples' missions, has no contacts in King's Row at all. This can be quite inconvenient if she has missions there); you might end up having to backtrack and broadcast offers of money for a particular badge mission that you have to have for an accolade. This can be a pain; I speak from experience.
Ultimately, a hero's career is like a journey, but getting there is not "half" the fun--it's 99% of the fun. You can choose to skip it if you want--it is your $15, after all--but you should understand that you're passing up a lot of what makes the game worth playing.
3) "Hey, buddy, can you spare another dime?"
When you level the normal way, you earn a lot of Influence along the way--not just from mob defeats, but from carting mob-dropped Enhancements back to the stores and selling them. Debt also serves as an "Influence buff," because you are earning Influence at the same time you're earning the extra XP necessary to pay it off. This is how you finance the Enhancements that fill out your slots. However, when you powerlevel, you may not get as many of those drops, as much debt, or or as much defeat Influence--which means you could find yourself at level 20 and not able to afford even a full set of Training Enhancements.
Of course, if you've got a Level 50 helping you to powerlevel, chances are money isn't going to be a concern for you no matter how you do it.
4) "No dogs, tinkers, or powerlevellers allowed."
Finally, if people find out that you powerlevel--no matter how "noble" your intentions--many of them may hold you in a certain lack of esteem, for the reasons given in the section before this one. There are supergroups that don't allow powerlevellers, and players who won't have anything to do with them.
If you're inclined to powerlevel, you're probably going to do it regardless of what anyone else thinks. All the same, it's something to keep in mind.
Then Why Would I Want to Powerlevel?
Up to this point, I've said some pretty negative things about powerlevelling. Nonetheless, there are several reasons that people have found that are, at least to them, good justifications for powerlevelling. Here are the ones that I know of.
1) "Just one or two more levels..."
There are certain threshold points in a hero's career where he gains an especially useful power. Level 14's travel power, for instance, or level 32 and 38's final primary and secondary slots. Sometimes, when a hero has only a level or two to go, he might get impatient and want to get that power as quickly as possible. In such a case, he might get himself powerlevelled to that one particular level, and play on normally from there.
2) "I don't want to play a baby hero, this is boring."
Sometimes experienced players simply don't enjoy the lower-level content (especially after having played three or four characters through it), and want to get up to a level they remember as being particularly fun. In this case, they will deliberately powerlevel through however many levels they consider to be the "un-fun" part, and then stop. (Level 20, where the Striga Island missions begin, is a popular threshold point.)
3) "Hey! Wait up, I'm almost there!"
Sometimes someone will discover that a friend from real life has made a higher-level character...on an entirely different server from his own. This means it's time to make an alt on his friend's server and do the best he can to catch up, level-wise.
Sure, the sidekick/exemplar system makes it possible to assist each other on missions, but only if those missions are outside a hazard or trial zone where the lowbie can't go. Likewise, they can't go on the highbie's Task Forces together, and the lowbie will never be as effective on high-level missions as an unsidekicked character of the same effective level. Thus, powerlevelling provides a way the lowbie can catch up, and a way the highbie can help him catch up.
4) "Come back when you're a little older, kid."
Heroes, especially those who don't ordinarily powerlevel much, can sometimes find that they've done all the missions that all their contacts have available for them, but none of their new contacts will talk to them until they put on another level or two. At this point, the only thing to do is street-hunt, team up and do someone else's missions or Task Forces, do newspaper missions (if a villain) or PVP zone missions (if high-enough level to get into one), or add the necessary level or two through powerlevelling. Heroes who want to get back to doing their own story arcs as quickly as possible will sometimes find powerlevelling to be the least objectionable alternative.
5) "I knew this TF was a bad idea when the leader started bragging about his debt badges..."
Sometimes even the best player can have a run of bad luck (or bad teammates), and wind up with one, two, or even all two and one half possible bars of debt. Some people find that seeing all that brown debt can be very depressing, and they want it gone as quickly as possible. They may not be inclined toward powerlevelling to gain XP--but getting rid of debt is a whole different ballgame. After all, XP debt feels unfair at the best of times, so even the most ardent anti-powerleveller might feel no qualms over getting rid of this penalty that they don't think they really deserved. (There are some special tips later in this guide expressly aimed at getting rid of debt, by the way.)
6) "Shake your moneymaker!"
There have always been advantages to having a high-level character other than the obvious acclaim of the lower levels. In particular, money matters. Due to Influence inflation as levels increase, level 50 characters can earn astonishing amounts of Influence just over the couse of normal adventuring--and at level 50, they have all the Enhancements they will ever need to buy (barring respecs, of course) so they have no further need for that Influence themselves.
Someone with a level 50 character can pass excess Influence using an intermediary, or "mule," to his lower-level alternate characters so they can buy the best Enhancements right away. He can even pass it to alts on entirely different servers than his own if he can find a trading partner with a high-level character on the other server and a low-level character on his own. At the rate at which a level 50 can earn Influence, he can support a number of lower-level characters easily.
Issue 6/CoV's introduction of supergroup bases and Prestige added a new wrinkle. Starting at level 25, staying in Supergroup mode to earn Prestige takes a bite out of the Influence a character earns for mob defeats and mission accomplishments; at level 34, a character in Supergroup mode earns only Prestige and no Influence whatsoever save for what he receives by selling Enhancement drops. However, level 50 characters in Supergroup mode earn pretty much the same Prestige for mob defeats as level 1 characters. Thus, the smart thing to do is have the supergroup's level 50 characters play outside of supergroup mode to earn Influence to subsidize lower level characters who play in supergroup mode.
7) "You're SO dead in PVP!"
Hard as it is to believe, there are some CoH players who don't care about PVE content and are solely interested in PVP. These players may be only too happy to blow off PVE content in order to get to level 50 as fast as possible so they can begin creating their ultimate PVP battler. Because of the differences between PVP and PVE, a character built for advancing in PVE will never be as good at PVP as a PVP-optimized build, and vice versa. Thus, once a PVPer's character is level 50 and no longer has to worry about levelling up in PVE, he is free to respec it into a total PVP machine.
Because of the way Exemplaring works, exemplared level 50 characters will usually be more effective in both PVE and PVP than unexemplared characters of the same level. There are several reasons for this.
First of all, the level 50 characters may lose the use of their later powers when they exemplar down--but they keep all the slots on powers they do still have, even if they were added later. For example, a Fire Tanker with 6-slotted Burn can exemplar down to level 18, which is when lower-level Fire Tankers get Burn, and still have the use of all 6 slots in it--even though a level 18 Fire Tanker will only have the one slot.
Second, when Enhancements are scaled down to be equivalent to DOs or Training Enhancements while exemplared to levels in the far lower ranges, the scaling is not exact: the level 50's Enhancements will perform better for him than Training or DO Enhancements will for an unexemplared character of the same level.
Third, level 50 characters can have Hamidon Enhancements, which act like two SOs in the same slot. Even scaled down, they will still outperform SOs, DOs, or TOs in an unexemplared character of the same level.
Thus, exemplared level 50 characters are quite desirable as teammates when doing tough PVE missions or Task Forces--though, since they cannot get new lower-level content themselves (aside from Task Forces), their utility here to their player is somewhat limited. However, getting new content is not as much a concern in PVP; due to the nature of the PVP zones and the Arena, a level 50 character will never lack for something to do in PVP.
8) "I wanna be UB3R!!!!!11!!1!!oneoneone!1!!"
And then there are those people who, for whatever reason, just want to have a high level character. They don't know and don't care how fun playing a lowbie might be, because they've never bothered to try it. They're the ones you used to see standing around tram stations and ferries--the ones who get their character levelled to 50, then make a Kheldian and powerlevel it too. These are probably the same people who use god-mode cheats on single-player games. Why? Who really knows. Perhaps they feel that having a high level character gives them a degree of control over one thing in their otherwise-uncontrollable lives; maybe they want to see "the ending" even though there really isn't one in City of Heroes.
These are, needless to say, usually the ones who give powerlevelling the bad name that it has today. They frequently don't know how to play those high-level characters, and just as frequently have terrible manners.
There may also be other reasons; if so, I will add them as they come to me.
What NOT to Do
Do not ask random strangers if they'll powerlevel you, or broadcast/request chat (or, for that matter, post on a server's message board) asking for a powerlevel. Frankly, in my experience powerlevelling a lower character is a chore and not very much fun at all. I have the utmost respect for those friends of my characters' who have shown a willingness to do it in the past, and even those I try not to prevail upon too much.
When you ask someone to powerlevel you, you are asking them to give up some of the fun and enjoyment for which they are paying good money in order to give your worthless keister a boost up. That's something you should think twice about asking even your best friend to do, let alone a complete stranger. Thus, asking for a powerlevel is not likely to endear you to anyone at best--and, at worst, it's likely to get you invited by some joker who thinks it'll be funny (not to mention deserved) to drop you into a cluster of higher-level mobs and earn you a half-bar of experience debt.
In other words, just don't do it.
Also, don't use the illicit methods for powerlevelling I describe later in this guide. Which I warn there, too, but it bears repeating.
The current methods of powerlevelling that are in vogue rely on taking advantage of the way experience is parcelled out among party members. To oversimplify the process, when a group of PCs kills a mob, the mob's "base experience" is divided up proportionately by level among the PCs in your party, then the base XP that each PC gets is modified up or down depending on the difference in levels between the PC and the mob. (Yes, I know there is also a "party bonus" XP multiplier depending on how many people are in the party, especially if there are 4 or more party members--I'm oversimplifying, okay?)
For instance, if a party consisting of a Level 2, a Level 3, and a Level 5 PC kills a Level 4 mob, first the base XP from that mob is divided into 10 parts (2 + 3 + 5 = 10), and then the Level 2 PC gets 2 parts, the L3 3 parts, and the L5 5 parts. Then, since the mob was level 4, the L3 PC's XP award is adjusted up slightly, the L2 PC's is adjusted up more, and the L5 PC's is adjusted down, because he was higher level than the L4 mob. Who got the best end of the deal here? It's probably the L2--even if he got the least pre-adjustment XP, he still got the higher upward adjustment and also has the shortest XP distance to go before levelling. So out of all three of those PCs, the L2 earned the most distance, proportionately, toward his next level.
There is a limit to how far apart in levels this will work, however, and they were tightened up with Issue 6. It is now necessary to be a) within 5 levels of the highest-level member on the team, and b) supposedly no more than 2.0 effective levels below the team's "average" effective level in order to get experience. Characters below this level must be sidekicked up to within the level in order to receive XP.
However, I have been on teams where my characters were getting XP even when they were 5 levels below the entire rest of the team; the average level should have been significantly more than 2.0 higher than my character. It may have been that the average effective level checker has been removed or broken in a recent patch, or that it figures the average in some way other than human beings do. Regardless, if you are within 5 levels of the highest member on your team and not getting XP, you may need to sidekick up.
1) The High-Low Game:
The most common form of powerlevelling, and the one people are usually talking about when they refer to powerlevelling in general, is what I call the High-Low Game. It involves teaming two heroes, one up to 5 levels above the other, unsidekicked, so that the higher-level hero can kill "easy" mobs and the lower-level hero cashes in on that level-adjustment bonus.
There are two basic configurations for the High-Low Game:
a) The duo: One PC teams with another PC up to 5 levels his junior. For example, a L40 might team with a L35. Subsequently, the higher-level PC goes around killing mobs around his own level, experiencing no great amount of difficulty in doing so, while the lower-level PC hangs back and tries not to get himself killed. The lower level PC gets extraordinary amounts of XP and Influence, as his less-than-half share of the base is increased by several levels' worth of difference adjustment. (He will also receive a lot of bling in the form of Influence, Inspirations, and sellable higher-level Enhancements.)
b) The trio: If a PC wants to power-level another PC who is outside the 5-level limit, the two of them find a "bridge"--a third PC, who is 4 or fewer levels lower than the high-level PC. Subsequently, this bridge sidekicks the lowest PC, then the highest-level hunts while both the lower PCs hang back and soak up the XP. The lower-level PCs get less XP than if there were only one of them, but they both get more than they would hunting solo. (Sometimes several PCs are power-levelled at a time this way--1 or 2 higher-levels do the killing for 3-4 lower-levels.)
These methods may also be used for obtaining defeats badges, such as those needed for accolades, for characters who would otherwise be unable to obtain them at their current level since the mobs for whom they are awarded spawn outside their level range.
It used to be that the higher-level character could hunt on his own while allowing the lower-level character(s) to wait in a safe place such as the tram and rake in XP while doing nothing. However, in Issue 4 the developers instituted an XP range limit so that characters have to be within three hundred feet of a mob to gain XP for its defeat while in Paragon City. This means that to play the high-low game outside of missions, the lower-level character will need to stick close to the higher-level, and have means of preventing either drawing aggro or taking damage (stealth, invisibility, flight, etc.). It was formerly possible to use Phase Shift for this, once it had been slotted such that it could be run continuously. However, time limits were added to all Phase Shift-like powers in Issue 5, so that is no longer feasible.
This range limit does not apply within missions, even instanced outdoor missions. Although this change will not affect mission-herd-and-reset powerlevelling, it has decreased the level of lag near trams from powerlevellers clustering there.
As noted above, Issue 6 added the 5-level-difference, 2.0-levels-below-average restrictions on the levels of people in a team. Even at this smaller level spread, the high-low game will still work, and bridging is still possible--however, it will not be quite as lucrative as it has been in the past.
2) "Just Me and My Shadow":
One method of powerlevelling I've seen talked about, though not experienced so much myself, is to have an unteamed higher-level Defender or Controller shadow your character around and cast buffs and heals on you, and mezzes on your enemies, when you're in combat. You can even invite him to your team temporarily to bring him into a mission with you, then drop team and continue as before (although this may no longer be possible given that kicked characters are automatically ejected from missions). I gather that this was particularly in vogue before Exemplaring came around, as it was the only way a higher-level character could help a lower on one of the lower's missions.
I can see that this would be at least somewhat effective; indeed, I've often had my high-level Emp Defender hang around in places like the Hollows or Perez Park to help out lowbies in just that very way--drive-by buffs and heals. But even though this method would theoretically let a low level character kill mobs as fast as he could, and perhaps kill mobs 1 or 2 levels higher than he could usually hit, he would still be limited to the mobs that were within his power to take down--even if he could hit a mob 7 levels above his own effective level, he would do only miniscule damage; if the mob landed one hit on him it would probably one-shot him--and would still take a fairly long amount of time in doing it. (Although, if the class being buffed was a class that already kills killable mobs rapidly, such as a Fire Tanker, the bump in effectiveness would be that much greater.) I don't consider this to be the most effective way to spend either your or your helper's time if you're really interested in rapid powerlevelling.
3) "Why don't you pull the other one, it's got bells on":
Another method of powerlevelling is what's known as the "mass pull" or "herding." Before I5, the form this took was that one hero, often (but not always) a Tanker or Scrapper with Invulnerability and Tanker Taunt or Pool Provoke, runs through a whole mission, aggroing every mob he comes across, then, once a galloping horde of mobs has been assembled, they can be taken care of by massive AoE attacks. The mission would then be reset and it would be done again.
However, in Issue 5 Defense was reduced dramatically, and caps were imposed on the number of targets that attacks and Tankers' Taunt could affect. This means that there is no longer as much benefit to rounding up a massive herd: more of them will be able to hit the Tanker, they cannot all be damaged at the same time, and Tankers can no longer hold the aggro of the entire group should someone else in their party attack. To add insult to injury, Issue 6's addition of Enhancement Diversification means that a Tanker no longer has the Defense, Damage Resistance, or self-healing recharge rate necessary to survive even a moderately-large herd on his own.
I have debated moving this section to the "Hall of Shame," given that it is no longer possible to do the sort of solo herding in safety that could be done in days of yore, but I have decided to leave it here for the present; there have been times in the past that I believed herding was dead, and I was mistaken then. It is possible I might be mistaken even now. If you do use these herding techniques, bear in mind that you should keep one or more Defenders or Corruptors on hand to heal you up while doing it. Kinetics work well for this, as they can also increase your own damage rate and perform other useful tricks.
It is still possible to herd on a small scale, on the order of two to three full-team-sized or hazard-zone spawns, or a larger number of smaller-team spawns. It must be done slowly and with care, and is ideally done by a Tanker with a good attack set who is able to deal with the mobs without outside damage help that could draw aggro away (but with support from Defenders or Controllers who can buff and heal since he will probably not be able to survive long on his own without it). And since XP per enemy was actually increased in Issue 5, small-scale herding may actually be more lucrative than large-scale herding was before--if the herder can survive.
It used to be that a series of wolf-related missions in the 40-44 and 45-50 Praetorian arcs were considered to be the archetypal mass-pull missions; wolves were fast enough to keep up with a character at a run, did not have any particular resistances, and only dealt basic smashing damage--a sure recipe for easy gathering and disposal. The broadcast channels in Peregrine Island echoed with the cries of people requesting additional players to fill out wolf-herding missions, bridge on wolf-herding missions, or even supply wolf-herding missions for powerlevelling. People would be blind-invited for wolf-herding missions, page-spammed for wolf-herding missions, and so on.
This constant spam resulted in a great deal of ill-will toward powerlevellers, which was in turn responsible first for wolves gaining a ranged mez attack, and then for most of the wolf missions (including at least one archvillain mission) having timers added so they could not be kept and reset-farmed. (Heroes who currently had the mission in their mission list were unaffected--meaning that someone who never completed the wolf-herding mission would still have it available to him untimed to this day.)
More recently, the Freakshow portal mission to defeat Dreck--another favorite for herding--also had a timer added.
However, almost any mission, especially instanced outdoor missions, can be herded by the right player with the right character. The loss of the wolf and Dreck missions was not really a permanent setback to mass-pull powerlevellers.
a) Tanker-Blaster Mass-Pull: In this variation, the Tanker (though I suppose a Scrapper (or, on the CoV side, a Brute) could be used in a pinch, their version of Invulnerability is slightly weaker than the Tanker's and could thus lead to a bad case of carpet-examination), optionally buffed to a fare-thee-well by a convenient Defender, scampers hither and yon getting mobs mad at him, then runs them all back the mission entrance, or to a conveniently tight spot (in ruined city maps, the long rectangular bins are a favorite for this) like a rabbit being chased by greyhounds--where a bunch of AoE Blasters and Scrappers wait to rain fire and death. (Controllers or Dark Defenders are helpful, too, to lock them all in place. Tenebreous Tentacles work very well in this situation.) Note that since Issue 5, it is no longer possible to hold the aggro of massive herds, so it would be best to limit this to two or three groups at a time on large teams, or their equivalent on smaller.
b) PBAoE Aggro Mass-Pull: You usually hear about this being done by a Spines Scrapper, but any melee class with a PBAoE attack (Spines Scrapper, Dark Armor Scrapper, Fiery Aura Tanker, etc.) can do it. There are two variations to this technique. In one variation, the puller's AoE aggro powers are used primarily to draw and hold the the aggro of the mobs to lure them back to Blasters in wait, as in the Tanker-Blaster Mass-Pull above; in the second variation, the puller is also the damage-dealer who puts the mobs down solo once they've been gathered. Since Issue 5, the latter technique is the safer one.
The latter variation on this technique was immortalized in a movie-capture that someone posted a while back, as an advertisement for selling his character on eBay. The movie showed a Spines/Invulnerability Scrapper wandering through an instanced outdoor mission filled with werewolves, hopping into the middle of a group of wolves, firing a PBAoE spine burst to aggro it, and moving on to the next one. Before long, he had a herd of wolves milling about him that would have done credit to an old-west cattle drive ("get along big doggies" instead of "get along little dogies"?)--at which point he proceeded to serve up an extra-large batch of doggie sashimi. (Or maybe shish-ka-bob.) This movie polarized the audience who saw it--half of them demanded that Spine Scrappers should be nerfed, and the other half pooh-poohed the feat but probably secretly went and rolled up a Spine Scrapper themselves.
The easiest classes with which to accomplish this feat are the aforementioned Spine Scrappers (due to their large selection of AoE spine/toxic attacks whose slowing effect helps keep the Scrapper safer) and Fiery Aura Tankers (whose Blazing Aura's punchvoke serves as a PBAoE taunt to keep mobs stuck to the Tanker like glue). I have also seen Dark Melee Scrappers pull huge clusters of mobs into a narrow fenced-in area and use Shadow Maul to eliminate them all once they had bunched up, though this takes some skill (and is no longer as possible due to the target cap on AoE powers).
c) Debuff Anchor Aggro Mass-Pull: Dark Miasma Defenders, Radiation Defenders, and Radiation Controllers have debuffs (for instance, the Dark's Darkest Night) that are placed on anchors--specific mobs--and radiate a debuffing effect to the mobs around those anchors. Any mob that is touched by the debuff effect is immediately aggroed on the hero who cast the effect. The hero casts a debuff on a mob, then runs around a corner (meaning that the mob can no longer stand in place and use ranged attacks, thus has to close to melee range), forcing the mob (and any surrounding mobs) to run to him. He then leads those mobs past another group, aggroing them too, and repeats the process until he has a fairly large crowd following him. Given that, when the debuffs are properly slotted, a debuffed mob cannot hit the debuffer very well, the debuffer can actually serve as a decent stand-in for a Scrapper or Tanker (as long as he is able to keep all the mobs within the debuff's area of effect). This technique is often used by solo-capable Defenders to bunch up as many mobs as possible for more effective AoE attacks. Note that since Update 3, the Defender or Controller must remain within two hundred feet of the anchor for the debuff to continue its effect.
Sonic Defenders and Controllers have a a PBAoE-on-ally toggle, Disruption Field, which can be cast on a tougher character but draws aggro not to that character but to the Defender or Controller casting the power. This could be used in a variation on the above technique, having the anchor walk around the corner to draw fire while the rest of the team waits with the Sonic character to take them down.
These methods are impressive, but a few things should be noted about them. First of all, the build of the Spine Scrapper in that movie (as mentioned in a forum post on some other CoH web board) was very skewed, with certain powers chosen and slotted in such a way that the Scrapper was optimized for this one specific task, and would have done poorly soloing (or perhaps even in groups when there were not massed hordes to kill). This led some people to speculate some kind of weird conspiracy theory in which the Scrapper was made and powerlevelled just to make that movie to cause divisiveness in the CoH-playing community (though I may be misremembering some of the details). PBAoE mass-pulling can still be done with a more all-around build, but it really should have the help of Blasters and other damage-dealers as with the Tanker variation to be safest and most effective.
Second, herding techniques work best on certain types of mobs--ones like Skulls, Hellions, and War- or Werewolves that only have fairly ordinary damaging, mostly melee, attacks. Try to go up against Tsoo or Thorns or others who can mez and unless he has plenty of Break Frees or a pet Emp Defender (or both), your aggro-magnet is faceplanted before he ever knows what hit him. (Of course, this is true mainly for the Defender mass-pull variation; Scrappers and Tankers get decent mez protection from their defensive power sets, though less so since I6 decreased their effectiveness.)
Third, there is a tradeoff inherent in mass-pull mission situations. In order to spawn the masses for you to pull, you have to have a fairly large team going in--because mission mob spawn count, even for instanced outdoor missions, is based on the number of people in your team. Even that spine Scrapper from the movie had to have seven other people along, hiding outside of camera view, to cause that many wolves to spawn. (One of those other people chimed in on a forum thread about the movie to note how impressive it had been to witness.) The more people you get on your team, the more mobs (and the higher the "party bonus" XP), true--but the more different ways the experience is split, too. (Of course, this particular drawback does not apply to Hazard-Zone Herding.)
(An interesting method of getting around this drawback was suggested in a post by LiveJournal user bittercupojoe: the Tanker or Scrapper goes to a lowbie area and invite six or seven lowbies join his team and up the spawn count--then fights all the mobs himself. Since they don't go into the mission, the XP and Inspirations from mob kills all go to the Tanker or Scrapper in question--who can then reward the lowbies with an Influence payment or other compensation for their time. bittercupajoe writes, "An hour of this at level 45 with a fire/ice tank can easily net me 4-5 bubbles. And the newbies get a nice little nest egg to start their careers with.")
Since Issues 5 and 6, it is no longer possible to do a true "mass" pull; the largest mob count that can typically be handled safely by one Tanker is about a dozen. Any more than that, and some of those will make a bee-line straight for anyone else who fires an attack into the herd. If the Tanker must have others' help, it would probably be safest to stick to the non-aggroing buffing and healing varieties--or else use Scrappers or Dwarf Kheldians, who will fight at close range and thus not split up the herd.
For this new, more limited form of pulling, expertise in how to get the enemies locked onto you is more important than ever. This guide goes over the basic Tanker techniques for initiating battle, including the importance of breaking line-of-sight to cause the enemies to bunch up and give yourself a few seconds more of recovery time.
It is sad that the era of huge pulls is over; it was quite an impressive sight to watch a single Tanker gather literally dozens of mobs all around him until he himself could not be seen. But at least it is still possible on a smaller scale--and thanks to the XP buffs on individual mobs, it may even be a more effective gain of XP for the amount of time spent.
One caveat about successful Tanker pulling: If the Tanker dies in mid-herd (often by getting overload-mezzed and losing toggles), there is a natural impulse on the part of less-experienced party members to rush in immediately and try to "save" him, and/or take out the mass of mobs while they're all still packed together. This is something that should above all else not be done--with the Tanker down, there is nobody left to hold the aggro of the mobs he's pulled together, and the would-be rescuees will be joining him on the floor before they know it. Better to cut your losses and teleport the Tanker to safety for a rez, or let him go to the hospital and pick up more Break Frees and Awakens on the way back.
And as mentioned in the PBAoE mass-pull variation, certain classes such as Spine Scrappers can both pull and kill multiple groups of of enemies by themselves. For soloing, this is usually done in Hazard Zones, where the mob spawns are large enough to make it worthwhile without needing a team.
City of Villains lacks a true Tanker analog--Brutes are essentially Scrappers, with Scrapper-level resistance and defense. It may be possible to herd with a Brute, but for herding on any sort of large scale, he would probably need plenty of buff and heal assistance from local Corruptors and Masterminds.
The Gold-Herd Variations
Herding is really more of a meta-technique--something you can do at the same time as you do other powerlevelling techniques, such as high-low missioning. That being the case, there are undoubtedly dozens of ways to apply it. For example:
Six is the magic number of people to have on a team for mission-herding--no more and no fewer. Six people (on diff settings Heroic, Rugged, or Invincible) is the required number for an optimal spawn count. 6-man spawns will be bumped by one level over normal spawns for that difficulty class of mission; they will spawn with a couple of lieutenants and a big bunch of minions who all go down pretty quickly. Adding one party member also adds one boss per spawn group; adding two for a full team of eight adds two bosses per group--which would mean that if you herded three groups together, you would have to deal with six bosses beating on you at once. Before I5 and I6's double-whammy of Defense cuts and Enhancement Diversification, all this would have cost you was extra time (which is bad enough on the XP-per-minute rate), but now it has a very good likelihood of being downright lethal as well. Avoid this problem by capping your team size at six.
Hazard-Zone Herding adapts the Tanker-, PBAoE-, or Debuff-pulling techniques to play in a Hazard Zone rather than a mission--a puller aggros several large groups of mobs and herds them to the waiting Blasters, or else to a boxcar or dumpster where he can eliminate them himself. This has the advantage of not requiring a large team to get a good spawn count (though hazard zone spawns are affected by the number of people on a team, they are less so than mission spawns), so the XP is split fewer ways. If doing Hazard-Zone Herding, take special care not to herd the mobs onto unwary uninvolved heroes who happen to be in the same hazard zone. This is terribly impolite, and will not improve your reputation. In fact, it's best to try to stay away from other heroes altogether; if some other hero attacks your herd, gets wiped out, and petitions you, the GMs will take the other party's side--even though it was their own fault for attacking--because your herding produced an unnatural concentration of mobs in the area. See this guide for more information about Hazard Zone herding etiquette.
Bins and Boxcars: In hazard-zone herding, as well as herding instanced outdoor missions in city or ruined city zones, it is good to make use of terrain features. A couple of particularly useful terrain features are the bins and boxcars (often erroneously called "dumpsters" by players) that are scattered around.
Bins are long metal train cars that are open at the top; boxcars are closed at the top with an opening on the side. (There are also boxcars with no openings whatsoever, but they are generally not useful in herding.) They have similar, though slightly different, uses depending on the types of mob you are facing and whether you are in a mission or a hazard zone.
The use of bins and boxcars is a specialized form of corner-pulling--it takes advantage of mobs' tendency to try to keep the object of their aggro in sight at all times. Thus, after attracting several groups of mobs' attention, the herder jumps into the bin or runs into the boxcar, causing the mobs to follow him in where they can be dealt with AoE or PBAoE attacks, such as Blaster level-32 "nukes." Since I5 and I6, these attacks will probably not hit every enemy, but they will hit enough to thin them out such that the next attack will be more succesful.
Bins are useful when fighting non-flying mobs, such as Trolls or Council in Boomtown. Aggro several spawns, run back to the bin, and jump in, breaking line-of-sight. The mobs will pursue and jump right into the bin with you, grouping up nicely for you and others to take out and giving you a good overhead view of the action. The only problem with using bins is that they do not break line-of-sight for most flying mobs--meaning that they will cheerfully hover overhead, just out of reach, and continue to pelt you with their attacks. This is not so much a problem when you are fighting enemies with only a few fliers (Outcasts, Clockwork), but when you are facing enemies like Freakshow that are about half fliers it is a different story.
Boxcars are what you need when facing fliers. When you run inside the boxcar, out of sight through the doorway, the fliers will lose sight of you, and the only way they can regain it is to come down and enter the boxcar themselves. This will bunch them up nicely and keep them from getting away while you put the smack down on them. The downside to boxcars is that you have very limited visibility while inside them, and it is not always easy to tell when enough of your herd has moved into the boxcar with you for you to begin. If you turn at exactly the right angle to put the door to the boxcar behind the camera you can get a view from behind yourself to outside, but it can be tricky to do, especially if you're being jostled by the mobs who are already inside. Also, some people's graphics cards go crazy with lag inside boxcars.
When herding instanced outdoor missions in city or ruined-city environments, you will have to move from dumpster to dumpster as you clean up spawns. You should familiarize yourself with the locations of the most convenient dumpsters and nearby spawns. This will let you work out herding patterns ("herd these three spawns to boxcar A, herd those three spawns to bin B...") that you can repeat from mission to mission for the most efficient completion and quick repetition for maximum XP.
However, there is a technique you can use in hazard zones that will let you center yourself on a single boxcar or bin and not have to go very far away at all until you're ready to go sell.
Hazard zone boxcar ranching: First, find yourself a bin or boxcar that is situated in an area with decent spawns all around it. Put the rest of your team in that bin or boxcar (or near it; squishy types may prefer to wait on top of, behind, or above it so they are less likely to get pinned in and trapped when the herd comes home), then strike out in one direction from the boxcar. Gather up a few good spawns and bring them back, pull them inside, and beat the stuffing out of them. Then, go in the opposite direction--if you started out east, go west; if you started north, go south. Gather up some spawns there and bring them back. By the time you finish with this second batch, the spawn points you visited the first time should have respawned, and you can get them again--and the same will hold true for the spawn points you visited second when you finish with the third batch. Thus, you should be able to go back and forth, back and forth, non-stop, until you tire of it, without ever having to go far from the same boxcar.
4) City of Villains technique: Farming the Newspaper
One of the new innovations in City of Villains is the newspaper mission--a constant, neverending stream of missions that are available once a villain leaves the newbie area of Mercy Island. It has subsequently migrated to the City of Heroes side as well, in the form of police scanner missions. The repeatability and similarity of these missions has given rise to an interesting technique reminiscent of Kora Fruit farming (see the Kora Fruit section in the Hall of Shame). This technique could also be used with Kora Fruit missions to an extent, and will probably work as well with whatever City of Heroes equivalent to the newspaper is introduced in the future. (It could also be adapted to PVP zone missions if the team was willing to take long enough to defeat all instead of just clearing the final room.)
The team forms up consisting of one or more high-level characters, and the lower-level characters to be powerlevelled (and bridges as necessary). The leader--who is a Stalker or someone else with good invisibility or stealth--takes a newspaper mission that is either a "defeat boss and his minions" or a "steal item and clear the room" mission. (Kidnapping missions require additional time, and this method is all about speed in completion.). The team travels to the mission, and then disbands.
The leader goes inside the mission and runs through it to the final room. This causes the mission to spawn the number of mobs associated with a 1-person team; once they are spawned, the spawn points cannot respawn even if more people join the team. Once the leader has reached the final room, he invites everyone else in the team back on, they enter, and the higher-level characters quickly clear the end room. All members on the team receive the end-of-mission bonus. The team leaves the mission, the leader takes another newspaper mission, and the cycle repeats.
What this has going for it is that it produces a fairly large mission-completion bonus for the lower-level players, and produces it fairly frequently--travel time is the only delay, especially if the leader can be scouting the mission while the rest of the team is being teleported in. However, I have my doubts that it is all that much faster in terms of overall XP per minute than simply running the mission from start to finish, and the whole rigamarole of disbanding and reforming the team with every mission seems like too much complication to me.
Newspaper farming has also become less effective since the mid-I6 change that limited the maximum end-of-misson XP bonus to equivalent to a maximum of 3 levels higher than one's own level. The reward is still decent (about 140-150% of what one would get if sidekicked for it), but not out of all proportion as it used to be.
I will address some less-complicated and less-cheesy techniques involving rapid mission completion in the Poweradventuring section below.
5) Archvillain Ranching
Although I have not experimented with this technique, it seems as though it would be feasible--at least as of early Issue 7.
Certain missions in City of Heroes and City of Villains feature two archvillain (or archhero) class enemies--one situated at the beginning of the mission and the other at the end. It is necessary to defeat both of them to complete the mission.
During I6, archvillains were upgraded to provide a larger amount of XP, an SO in your origin that is 3 levels higher than the AV's spawn level, a tier-3 Inspiration, and an item of salvage when defeated. It stands to reason that it would be desirable to defeat the first archvillain and then reset the mission; not only would this gain XP at an accelerated rate, it would provide a font of SOs, Inspirations, and salvage.
However, in response to this sort of farming, the loot rewards for the first archvillain of a two-or-more AV mission have since been removed. It will still provide a decent amount of XP, however.
<span>6) Hitting the Reset Button</span>
Mission resetting is the practice of leaving a mission partly unaccomplished, exiting, and restarting it with all mobs restocked. This is accomplished by retreating to and departing through the entrance before all mission goals are accomplished, and then, when everyone is safely outside, selecting a different mission from the team mission display. A dialogue box will appear asking if you wish to abandon the current mission; click "yes" to do so, then reselect that mission from the team missions display. The mission will be reset--the map will be obscured and all mobs will have respawned--and can be entered and fought again. Although resetting a mission does not usually constitute a powerlevelling technique by itself, it is often used in combination with another technique (usually the mass-pull, since by using the same mission over and over they don't have to find another one with the same easy-to-kill or needed-for-badge mobs in it).
Mission resetting is most commonly used in four situations: 1) the mass-pull powerlevelling technique mentioned above; 2) when farming mobs within the mission to get a badge (such as the hard-to-find Banished Pantheon Masks); 3) when farming blinkie artifacts (such as Vahzilok corpses) that provide some Influence (or other, non-XP benefits, such as Kora Fruit's 50% Inspirations) to the gatherer; or 4) when new team members join a team shortly after they have entered the mission (so that spawns will be adjusted for the latecomer and he will receive the end-of-mission XP bonus). Of these, situation 1 has already been discussed and situations 2 and 4 are outside the purview of this guide. Powerlevelling by blinkie is no longer feasible since they no longer provide any XP whatsoever.
Some might consider a few of these powerlevelling methods to be exploits, chiefly because they tend to reward lower-level characters entirely out of proportion to the work they do for the party. However, I contend that this is balanced out by the requirement that the powerleveller character be willing to grind XP for the lower-level powerlevellees, when he could be running missions and enjoying other new content instead. This isn't something that people are going to be willing to do for just anybody--which is, again, why asking for a complete stranger to powerlevel you is so asinine.
Thus, in a way, powerlevelling is self-selecting for people who are actually good players already--the creep who panhandles for powerlevelling usually won't get it, whereas the fellow who goes out and plays the game and makes friends and proves he's an all around cool guy will have plenty of folks willing to help him gain a few levels. (However, I have seen a few offers to powerlevel for Influence cash--and have even had friends who have taken them up on it--but it seems to me that surely can't be too lucrative for the powerleveller; by the time he's high enough level to powerlevel effectively, he's going to be making his own money a lot more easily than the people he's powerlevelling would!) High-Low powerlevelling is seen most often among RL friends or supergroup members, people who are willing to help each other out.
In the end, people who want to powerlevel are going to do it with or without this guide. Still, for those who dislike the idea of passively earning XP off of someone else's work (or for those who just don't have the knack of making friends), there are some other good ways of earning XP, which I'm going to call "Poweradventuring" just because I feel like it. They may not earn as quickly as powerlevelling, but they aren't as exploity or as much of a boring grind either.
This section is for some play tips that I've found help me earn XP (or earn off debt) reasonably fast when I'm interested in doing it without deviating from my ordinary play style. I refer to these tips as "poweradventuring" to differentiate them from "powerlevelling." The word "powerlevelling" has taken on a negative connotation, through the use of techniques that some may consider to be exploits. The tips I describe in this section are well within the bounds of good and polite gameplay, and sometimes there's not much more to them than ordinary common sense. These aren't so much "tricks" as they are slight changes you can make to the way you already play.
Some may feel that the word "powerlevelling" should still apply even to these less-cheesy methods. However, I wanted to draw a distinction in this guide between play methods that draw jeers and play methods that draw appreciative looks for their cleverness, and since many people already view the word "powerlevelling" in a negative light, coming up with a new term seemed the obvious choice.
The biggest key to levelling fast is also the most obvious: AVOID XP DEBT. XP debt is negative XP, plain and simple. They show it in the form of a brown segment added onto the end of your pink XP bar, but they might as well just have chopped that length off of the end of your pink bar instead for the practical effect it will have. That debt has stolen XP from you, XP that you will never get back. Sure, you'll get a pretty badge when you pay off enough debt, but is that really something for which you should strive? Here is a LiveJournal post full of very helpful tips for avoiding debt.
I'm not just mentioning this to state the obvious, but to remind you to keep it in mind when evaluating the rest of the tips in this section. When you plan to put one of these techniques to use (or, indeed, when you plan to try anything in the game), evaluate the situation and ask yourself if using the technique is likely to lose you more XP (in the form of debt) than it earns you. If so, and if your goal is to level as fast as possible, then don't do it.
Another tip that may seem obvious is this: NARROW YOUR FOCUS. Many City of Heroes players suffer a bit from "alt-itis"--there are so many different classes and variations on classes that you just have to try them all. Early in the life of the game, it even surprised the developers; they found far fewer level 40s and 50s than they had expected because so many people were creating and playing multiple characters.
The fact that City of Heroes is capable of offering such a diverse range of experiences is a good thing--it means people are less likely to get bored, because they can always switch to a character who plays completely differently if they do. However, if reaching the high end of the level scale quickly is your goal, alt-itis is your enemy.
For the sake of example, let's say that it takes 200 hours of non-powerlevelled play time to get a character from level 1 to level 50. (Yours Truly's Fire/Fire Tanker got there in about 174.) If you are able to play that character for an average of 4 hours per day, it will only take fifty days--approximately 1 and 2/3 months--to reach that goal. Even if you can only play for 2 hours a day--a more realistic figure for people who have to balance social and family lives with game time--that still works out to just a bit over three months to level 50. But if you split your time between multiple characters, at the end of that same period of time all you will have are a bunch of teens, twenties, and thirties at most to show for it.
If the idea of playing just one character for several months does not appeal to you, then compromise: play two. Have a "grind" character and a secondary backup character who is different enough from the grinder that you can switch over and play differently when you are starting to get bored. If you're willing to spend the time, you could even grind both of them at once.
It took me a little over one month from the time City of Villains was released to grind out my first level 40 character (and that was after putting 15 levels on an earlier character before I decided I wanted to try something different). I continually encounter people who are surprised I advanced so quickly--when to me it did not seem as if I had levelled all that much faster than normal speeds. When I thought about it, I realized that the secret was that during that time, I simply played that one character to the near-total exclusion of all others. It was so simple that I had not even thought to list it in this guide--but now I am. If you focus like a laser beam on just one character, you may be surprised how quickly that character advances.
As you might expect, this technique will be even more effective when applied to a character class that is already naturally fast to level. (See "Earning XP The Classy Way" below.)
Here is my listing of "legitimate" fast-levelling techniques.
1) "Big Brother/Big Sister"
Search the LFG list until you find a character 1-2 levels higher than you, of a complementary archetype to your own (i.e. if you're support, get a damage-dealer; if you're a damage-dealer, get a Tanker or another damage-dealer, etc.) who is looking for a team. Invite that PC to your party, and, if he comes, do his missions exclusively--not your own. (Needless to say, this also works if you have a friend or SG-mate in the right level range, but you may not be able to find one when you need one, and LFG-find is always there.)
At the core, this is a very weak version of the High-Low Game technique described in the last section; the difference is that you're going to be an active contributor to the team instead of a leech. Because missions spawn at the level of the player whose mission they are (as adjusted by his Reputation setting), this will get you missions full of yellows and oranges, and perhaps some reds and purples (to you; they'll be the standard white/yellow/orange/red to your partner). Since there are just the two of you, they shouldn't spawn in numbers too excessive for your partner to handle with your help, and they'll earn you more XP than you'd get doing white/yellow missions by yourself. Also, the end-of-mission XP bonus will be that much higher.
The downside is that you'll probably only be doing your partner's missions, because yours will be green and blue (and boring) to him. This could lead to you outlevelling those missions and their becoming green and blue (and boring) to you. (However, the Reputation system means that this can now be remedied to an extent.)
It is important that you make sure you and the character you invite will be an effective duo; if not, it will just lead to more debt. If you plan to do this, you should slot your attacks with more Accuracy Enhancements than usual so you'll be able to hit the higher-level mobs more often. This technique works best with Defenders and Controllers whose ability to buff or heal the higher-level member of the team is unchanged by the relative level of the mobs he is facing; it is also helpful if one of you has Tactics to help you hit better.
And just to note, even if you don't team with a higher-level character, duoing with an even-level or even a lower-level PC can still be an effective method of levelling without debt, provided that other PC's abilities complement your own. If so, you can be more effective together (and tackle missions at a higher Reputation setting) than either one of you could alone. (See the section on Synergies, below.) Also, the overall principle works for teams larger than just duos; if your character is the lowest-level member on a team that does mostly higher-level missions, he will still get more XP than he would on a team of heroes his own level (and will level even faster than in a duo due to the higher XP adjustment modifier.)
This technique is less necessary since the advent of the Mission Reputation adjustment system (see the section describing it below) so you can now have yellow or orange enemies in your own missions without needing someone else's help, but can still be used to good effect or even combined with that method (by having the Big Brother or Sister set a higher Reputation on his or her missions).
(A variation on this technique is to be sidekicked to a much-higher-level player and do his missions; you will be effectively one level lower, just as above.)
2) Safety in Numbers
Fighting higher-level enemies is the most obvious method of being able to earn good XP. But another excellent method is to be a part of a large team. It may seem counterintuitive--after all, XP on large teams is split in more ways, so you get less XP per mob defeated. However, there are three other factors to consider.
First of all, there is an XP multiplier that is applied to the XP given by individual mobs, depending on the number of people who are on the team. The larger the team, the more actual XP per mob is generated by the team, even if it is split more ways.
Second, larger teams are usually capable of defeating mobs faster than smaller teams, which leads to more enemies defeated in the same amount of time.
Finally, larger teams cause more mobs (and higher-level mobs for a team of six or more) to spawn inside of missions, meaning there will be more to defeat, and more XP gained by defeating them.
Combining large teams with the "Big Brother/Big Sister" technique and a good Mission Reputation setting, can thus lead to rapid XP gain for lower-level members of the party. However, bear in mind that some enemies seem to get tougher out of all proportion to the difficulty setting as the team grows larger--particularly Longbow, Malta, and Circle of Thorns. It may be better to lower the difficulty for a larger team, lest you risk receiving more than enough debt to offset the XP gain.
It's also worth noting that the XP benefit of large teams also depends in part on how fast the team is. If it's a slow team (for example, full of Masterminds who take longer than they should in getting ready), you could probably be earning XP faster alone with rapid mission completion (see below).
3) Task (or Strike) Forces, Care and Feeding of
Task Forces--or at least successful Task Forces--have a reputation for gaining people at least one, and often two levels over the course of an evening's adventuring (at least at the lower levels, where levelling is more rapid; by the 30s and 40s a successful Task Force may earn 9 or fewer bubbles). Why is this? Simple--the Task Force is a series of missions set at a particular level that may be undertaken by anyone up to five levels (six in some cases) below that. As the High-Low and "Big Brother" techniques show, if you do higher level missions, you get more XP. This isn't meant to be a comprehensive Task Force guide, so I'll just hit the high points of how to get the most XP out of a TF while getting the least debt.
a) If at all possible, put the Task Force team together yourself. This will give you enough control over the quantity, level, and archetypes of the other participants that you can implement the rest of my suggestions. If you don't want to lead the TF, then arrange to promote one of the other players to the leadership slot before you start.
b) Take no more than five members, unless the task force specifically requires that many--and even then, take as few as you can. For most normal missions and TFs (there are exceptions for things like the Abandoned Sewers Hydra Trial; ask an experienced player if in doubt), adding that sixth member bumps all the mobs in the mission up by an additional level of difficulty, and more members than that add more bosses to the mix. This means the TF will take much longer to complete, be more likely to have crucial people drop as they run out of play time, and be much more difficult (and likely to engender XP debt). Note that most Task Forces can be completed with fewer than the minimum quantity of players, so if you wish to do a TF requiring 7 to start with only 5 people, you can have two people join for long enough to start and then drop once the TF is underway. Conversely, if you are experienced and powerful enough to handle anything the Task Force can throw at you, and you don't mind it taking longer and having higher risk of debt in return for the chance of greater XP gain, you may wish to go at it with a full team of 8 (as per the "Safety in Numbers" method above). You simply need to decide whether the increased gain is worth the increased risk.
Also, try to be as balanced as possible in your selections; one character per "main" archetype (i.e. one each of Blaster, Controller, Defender, Scrapper, Tanker) has worked very well in Task Forces I've run, but isn't always possible to get; Kheldians can serve as surrogate Blasters, Tankers, or both in turn depending on their build. See other folks' Task Force guides for more suggestions on picking the ideal team.
c) Be aware of your party's Reputation settings. There are conflicting reports as to what effect Reputation settings (see the section on Reputation settings below) have on Task Forces. When this guide was first written, there was some question over whether the difficulty of everyone on the team affected Task Force difficulty, or just the leader's; this has since been fixed so that only the leader's counts. Depending on your party composition, you may want to make sure everyone sets his Reputation as low as possible, for the same reason that you want to have 5 or fewer members as per b); however, the higher the difficulty, the more experience (and the higher-value Enhancement drops) you will get. If you have a sufficient number of high-level characters who feel they can handle it, you should set to Invincible for maximum XP gain. (This is particularly true if you have a number of characters exemplaring down from higher levels--especially if they are levels 47-50 and kitted out with Hamidon Enhancements.)
d) Make sure most of the party members are toward the high end of the level range (or can be sidekicked that way)--except you. In order to be an effective team, you're going to need some heavy hitters (especially if you have more than 5 members and/or a high Reputation setting). If you're going on Positron's (L10-15) TF, for instance, at least 3 out of your 5 members should be at least L14. You're going to need that firepower to take down the masses of L15 and L16 mobs as fast as possible with minimal casualties. A Task Force will only help you out if you don't get killed much during it.
Note that since late Issue 4, characters who have outlevelled the Task Force now have the Arena-style automatic exemplar when participating in it--meaning that they do not need to rely on a lower-level character to be eligible, and that they do not get dumped from the Task Force if they or a lower-level character should disconnect. Higher-level heroes who are willing to exemplar for a Task Force with you are generally better and more capable than heroes of your own level, because they will have more slots and better enhancements (possibly even including Hamidon Enhancements) than heroes of your own level, even if the effectiveness of those enhancements is reduced proportionately in the exemplar process.
So, you should have as many high-end-of-eligibility or exemplared heroes as possible on the team. However, in order for the TF to be of the most benefit to you experientially, you should be in the lower to middle part of the level range--either naturally, or, if you must be, SK'd up to it. The ideal level for people who need to make successful to-hit rolls in order to be effective (as with attacks, or with targetted heals), in my opinion, is minimum-plus-two--12 for Positron, 17 for Synapse, etc. This means you're high enough to be able to land some hits (especially if you've put extra Acc enhancements in your powers) without having to be sidekicked, but low enough to get a lot of XP from the level adjustment. Defenders whose main effects are no-roll-required buffs or heals (Emp, FF, Sonic, etc.), can probably get away with starting at the minimum level for the TF if the rest of the team is amenable. If you can get by without debt, you'll probably earn at least two full levels before you're finished (depending on the level range of the TF) if you run the TF at this point. This does work better for Defenders, of course, since they're not expected to attack as much. If you plan to do this, you should be sure to put at least two Accuracy Enhancements in your attacks so you will at least be able to hit the higher-level targets reliably.
(And, of course, this is strictly optional and may not always be possible depending on the situations your team runs into; if your team is getting creamed, you'll take your sidekicking and you'll like it. You'll still end up ahead in the end.)
Done the right way, a Task Force can lead to rapid experience gain (and the SO you get at the end ain't chickenfeed either). Even if you aren't able to apply all of these tips, you'll still come out ahead as long as the Task Force ends successfully.
4) "Want Some Candy, Little Girl?"
One technique that is clever, if obvious in retrospect, involves getting around the limits on the number of Inspirations you can carry by buying them from a street contact located near spawns of tough mobs, immediately popping them, then buying and popping some more, then tackling the mobs while the inspirations are still good. Although I have not tested this technique extensively myself, one poster found that it allowed his Scrapper character to solo crowds of red mobs for good XP gain. It might offer similar promise to other archetypes as well. Even if a Rage is only good for 25% of base (that is, unenhanced) damage, popping enough of them at once will still bring you to the damage cap.
5) The Sliding Scale of Justice
With Update 3, a system for adjusting mission difficulty was introduced; it has been tweaked in subsequent patches. It is only possible to make missions more difficult, not less, because the developers do not want people blowing through their missions too quickly (since it is already possible to run out of missions from all contacts as it is). The more difficult a mission is, the higher-level the mobs are, and the higher the end-of-mission XP bonus is.
Levels are adjusted by talking to a Hero Corps Field Analyst (usually found in the vicinity of a Trainer, as well as a few other spots such as by the Portal Corps sign in Peregrine Island) and paying some Influence to set your "Reputation" to one of five levels. This new ability to make a mission more difficult, and thus face higher-level mobs, means it is no longer as necessary to use the "Big Brother/Big Sister" method to get the challenge of, and higher XP for facing, mobs that are higher-level than yourself in missions.
These are the five levels (listed by CoH/CoV name), and what they apparently mean (there are some reports suggesting that these descriptions may not be entirely accurate):
Heroic/Villainous (formerly Hard-Boiled): The default setting. Foes are 0/+1 of your level. Normal spawn quantity.
Tenacious/Malicious: Foes are 0/+1 of your level. Spawn quantity is calculated as if there were one more person on your team.
Rugged/Vicious: Foes are +1/+2 of your level. Normal spawn quantity.
Unyielding/Ruthless: Foes are +1/+2 of your level. Spawn quantity is calculated as if there were one more person on your team.
Invincible/Relentless: Foes are +2/+3 of your level. Normal spawn quantity.
There is a special case involving the Heroic/Villainous setting when soloing. In order to make missions more solo-friendly, named Bosses in solo missions set to Heroic/Villainous will instead appear as Lieutenants with the same appearance, powers, and description. They will still be Bosses as usual for Tenacious/Malicious on up, however. Elite Bosses, such as Heracles or Longbow Ballistas, will still spawn as Elite Bosses no matter what the difficulty setting.
There has been some discussion about what is truly the most efficient setting for maximum XP gain. The Unyielding setting has the highest quantity of moderately-tough mobs, which means more XP on the hoof for herding and the like. Unyielding mobs are easier to defeat than Invincible, and there are more of them to defeat. However, according to an analysis one player did, counting up the quantity of each type of mob per mission and XP thereof, the total XP per mission is actually slightly higher for Invincible than for Unyielding; the higher level of the fewer mobs combined with the larger end-of-mission bonus pushes its count over the top.
The upshot is that if you are actually completing the missions, you will get slightly more XP for completing an Invincible mission than for completing an Unyielding one. The assumption I made in prior versions of this guide was that since Invincible mobs are harder to defeat than Unyielding mobs, the Invincible mission itself could take a longer period of time (particularly if your main method of damage is AoE), meaning that you would not earn as much XP per minute overall.
However, upon more recent testing, I recognized a factor I had not taken into account before: bosses. The Unyielding setting has a higher quantity of bosses than Invincible. For example, a Freakshow instanced portal mission that has no bosses in its Invincible spawns for a 6-person team will have 1 boss in each spawn on Unyielding. And bosses take more time and effort to defeat--a length of time that is usually out of proportion to the higher amount of XP you get from them. If XP per minute is your goal (for example, if you are herding and resetting a mission), you may find it faster and more lucrative to take out higher minions and lieutenants on Invincible than to take out lower-level bosses on Unyielding.
6) Earning XP the Classy Way
If you want to earn XP as quickly as possible on your current character, the other methods in this guide are for you. But if you are not averse to creating a new character, one of the best ways to level quickly is to make a character from one of the fastest-levelling character classes--characters who are able to use the PBAoE Mass Pull techniques described in the Powerlevelling section while soloing, for example. Being able to manage Hazard Zone-sized spawns of mobs by oneself leads to much better solo XP than a class that can only take out a few mobs at a time. If you've never played such a class before, the difference can be really amazing. Plus, once the character reaches a high enough level, it can easily be used to powerlevel others.
The two fastest-levelling character types in City of Heroes were at one point Spine Scrappers and Fiery Aura Tankers. Given the number of changes that have taken place in the intervening updates, it is uncertain whether this is still true, though both types do still have some elements in their favor.
The Spine power set has a variety of AoE and PBAoE attacks of different types, and each of these includes a slow effect. Spines/Regen Scrappers were at one time considered by some to be "the" class for powerlevelling; another possibly good class is Spines/Dark Armor because they have two PBAoE damage toggles (one each from their primary and secondary sets).
Another extremely popular fast-levelling class at one point was the Fire Tanker, who had the toughness to stand amidst a hazard-zone-sized spawn and the PBAoE damage to take them down quickly. Prior to I5, the Fire Tanker was arguably the best powerlevelling class in the game due to Burn, a fire attack that could take out a crowd of enemies while the Fire Tanker did nothing but stand there. Issue 5 reduced Burn's damage, lengthened its recharge rate, and magnified its fear component to make enemies run away when it was used. Issue 6's Enhancement Diversification reduced the amount of damage it could do, as well. Since I5, I6, and I7, the Fire Tanker is still decent, but now requires help from a Controller or Dark Blast Defender for the best use of Burn. The most popular variations include
Fire/Fire -- Good all-around PBAoE class; early-game Blazing Aura and Burn coupled with Fire Sword Circle and Combustion later on.
Fire/Energy -- Energy Melee has the highest single-target damage of a Tanker set; reportedly able to solo monsters and AVs.
Fire/Ice -- The Ice secondary provides Ice Patch, which has very good synergy with Burn and helps to counteract the terrorize/Taunt changes introduced in I4 and I5.
See Mephe's Fire/Fire Tanker Guide v2.0 for good advice (though largely outdated by Issues 5 and 6) concerning Fire Tanker building, slotting, and playing, which can easily be adapted to other Fire/* types as well. Also, Yours Truly has written an expanded guide to Fire Tanking in I4 and I5 that you may find worth a look. (Someday I'll bring it current again, maybe.)
The changes in Issue 5 added a formerly unlikely class to the list of possible fast levellers: Controllers. With Issue 5, Controllers received the inherent ability Containment, which allows them to do double damage to held enemies. If you pair a high-damage Controller primary, such as Fire or Ice, with a Defender secondary that includes damage resistance debuffs, such as Radiation, Storm, or Sonic, you have the potential to do a great deal of damage to many enemies at once simply by combining the damage resistance debuffs with the group and single-target holds--and because they're held, they can't attack you back at the same time. Once the pets come out (for every class except Mind), the damage gets even better.
On the City of Villains side, it is somewhat hard to say what the fastest-levelling class is; due to CoV's emphasis on more damage with most of its classes and its reduced travel time, the levelling process in City of Villains is noticably faster overall than in City of Heroes. However, the all-around fastest of the fast classes are probably Brutes and Masterminds.
Brutes are City of Villains's version of Scrappers, but with access to Tanker sets in addition to or instead of the usual Scrapper--and with an insanely high 850% damage cap and the Rage inherent to help them reach it. Once they get going, Brutes are basically juggernauts; they may not be true "Tankers" in the CoH sense, but if they can take down enemies faster, the enemies won't do as much damage to them anyway. Brutes with superspeed or stealth (such as Energy Aura's Energy Cloak power) are particularly fast to level, being well-suited to the rapid mission completion technique described in one of the following section. (Stalkers are also decent at stealthing missions, but are hampered by their slower fighting speed.)
Masterminds do not have a City of Heroes equivalent as such; they are the leaders of tiny armies who do (and take) most of the damage for them. They can be a bit slow starting out, but once they have all their minions fully upgraded, they can do insane amounts of damage. Masterminds are good in groups (particularly to have their minions open attacks and take the aggro) but can also solo pretty quickly (though they do have to spend a couple of minutes at the start of a mission getting their pets out and upgraded). Thanks to the new Bodyguard ability that was introduced in I7, they are also significantly safer than many other classes; they can now take alpha strikes even better than a Tanker.
Some Mastermind primary and secondary sets are better than others. Probably the best all-around damager is Robots, who have decent ranged and melee attacks using energy and (for the Assault Bot) fire, and a good chance at disorienting once the final upgrade is in; Necromancy is good in melee and for the sort of control effects that come with Dark Energy power sets. According to calculations someone posted in the Archetypes forum, Thugs are actually 1.4x more damaging than Robots--but since much of their damage is Smashing or Lethal, it is more readily resisted in the late game.
It is generally agreed that the Dark Miasma secondary power set is one of the overall best values for a Mastermind secondary. Dark Miasma offers the only aura heal available to Masterminds, decent control and damage-boosting powers, and an extra pet. Traps also has some benefits in terms of a regeneration-buff AoE beacon, powerful trip mines, and a Disperson Field toggle that doesn't go off if the character gets mezzed. Force Field is also decent if you don't mind bubbling like a madman every four minutes; the bubbles make your pets a touch more slippery, Force Bolt can knock pesky foes on their backsides or off of balconies, Dispersion Field provides personal mez protection, and Personal Force Field is an excellent debt-avoidance panic button when you bite off more than you can chew.
7) Adversity Builds Character--and So Should You
Even if you have picked the fastest-levelling class ever, you've only done half of what you need to ensure success. The other half is building the best version of that character you possibly can--because the difference between a good build and a bad build can mean the difference between levelling rapidly and hardly levelling at all. And thanks to some of the developers' decisions, coming up with a good build isn't necessarily easy.
Back when City of Heroes was in the planning stages, there had never been a truly large-scale successful MMORPG. Jack "Statesman" Emmert thought that part of the problem might be that other MMORPGs gave their players too much confusing information--so City of Heroes would provide only simple summaries of what powers did, with none of those confusing numbers. (Subsequently, World of Warcraft, which discloses all numbers for all powers, became the biggest hit MMORPG ever, causing a chagrined Emmert to admit that perhaps he had been slightly mistaken.) And so we have the system City of Heroes has now, wherein power effects are given vague descriptions, which really don't mean too much of anything.
(More recently, the numbers actually have been released, in the Prima Guides and downloadable update for same. However, many of the numbers given are inaccurate or incomplete enough to cast doubt upon the rest, so it is uncertain whether this is actually an improvement.)
Admittedly, this system does avoid the confusion of overloading a player with numbers. However, it causes the confusion of not really telling a player much of anything, which is arguably worse. This means that, when building a character, you can't trust the power descriptions you see on the training screen. A power that sounds like the best power ever might turn out to be the worst power in the set. For example, Fiery Aura's Temperature Protection power is a power that no Fiery Aura player in the know actually takes; half of its effects are completely redundant with the shield toggles, and the other half are mostly unnecessary. Yet a newbie player reading the power selection list would have no way to realize this.
The only way to find out what powers are good and what are stinkers is to learn from experience. Fortunately, there are enough experienced players out there that you do not have to rely only on your own experience. Obsessive number crunchers and statisticians with statistical analysis programs have discovered or extrapolated likely numbers for just about every power out there. Obsessive programmers have compiled these into character-creating programs like Sherk Silver's Character Builder and obsessive guide-writers have written guides around them. All the wisdom you need to figure out your own optimal build is right at your fingertips.
Here are a few recommended places to look for guides, numbers, and advice, in order from most to least recommended.
The City of Heroes official board's Guides & FAQs category. This is where guides are placed that are meant to stick around a while. You may even be reading this guide from there (although since some people have mirrored my guides on their own websites, this is by no means a sure thing). You can find guides by browsing the subject lines, searching on key words, or checking the Guide to Guides. (A guide referencing the Guide to Guides...recursive enough for you?) The Guide to Guides may be your best bet, since some guides don't actually mention their subject in their subject line.
The best guides will be informative and will make recommendations about what powers to take and what to avoid, but will not try to lock you into one specific build. They will also include suggestions for strategies in the use of powers, and may even give you a few tips you didn't learn here. (For examples of what I modestly consider the best sort of guide, see my own guides to Robotics/Dark Miasma Masterminds and Energy/Energy Brutes.) Be advised, however, that since the Guides board does not expire old posts, it is possible you could find guides dating all the way back to when City of Heroes first came out.
To make sure the information is the most valid, look for some indication in the subject line what Issue a guide was meant to cover, or else check the posting date. The most modern guides will say I9 or I10. Given the number of changes in each issue, obsolete guides may not necessarily have the best advice. Anything before I5 will not take into account I5's Damage Resistance and Defense reductions, and anything before I6 will not include Enhancement Diversification. Anything before I7 will not cover the Accuracy/Defense calculation change. Ideally, you want something at least I7 (June 2006) or later. Anything before I8 won't cover Veteran Reward powers. Anything before I9 won't deal with Inventions. Anything before I10 won't cover the cooperative missions and new Rikti war content, and so on.
Even if you don't find an exact guide to your particular power set combination, you can still pick up useful information by reading guides that are partial matches. For example, if you were playing a Spines/Super Reflexes Scrapper and couldn't find a Spines/Super Reflexes Guide, you could still learn about the Spines set by reading a Spines/Regen guide and about the Super Reflexes set by reading a Katana/Super Reflexes guide.
The City of Heroes board for your archetype. Whatever archetype you're making, check that board. If you're making a Scrapper, read the Scrapper board; if you're making a Brute, read the Brute board, and so on. You will find lists of guides for that specific archetype there that may be more current, or have more links, than the Guides Guide to Guides (whee, more recursion!), but you will also find threads discussing important aspects of powers and power sets that can help you figure out what to take and what to skip. If you have any particular questions, don't be shy about asking them. Remember, there are no stupid questions...only stupid people who ask stupid questions.
ParagonWiki. A relatively recent site, it is nonetheless very well updated, and some of the information I've incorporated into the guide came from there. And, since I am planning to try to put my guides on there as well, you may even be reading this there.
Other advice sites. There are plenty of other fansites and advice sites on the 'net for City of Heroes, such as City of Heroes Warcry, that used to have a lot of good character-building advice; however, the game has changed a great deal and some of the information may not necessarily be current any longer. The warnings above about checking the issue or posting date apply doubly here.
Character-building programs such as Sherk Silver's Character Builder. These programs, which provide an interface to let you build a character's power selections and slots from scratch, have their good aspects and their bad aspects. Good aspects include letting you try out sample builds for your character before he even leaves the training zone, and letting you see the numbers for each of your respective powers. Bad aspects are that the numbers in the version you have may be outdated or otherwise wrong due to updates to the game (or statistical discoveries) more recent than updates to the program, and they also do not give you advice about the powers beyond their printed descriptive text and what Enhancements they can take.
However, sometimes all the guides and good advice in the world will not be enough to keep you from making a mistake in your build. If you have a pre-existing character, you may already have. However, you will have the chance to correct that in the form of the three "normal" and one "freebie" respec you are granted over the life of your character. For information on how best to use those, see R_M's Guide to Using Respecs.
8) Play to Your Strengths (and Their Weaknesses)
Whether hunting or doing missions, getting the most XP per minute (and the least debt) requires making the most defeats as quickly as possible. To do this, you should start to become aware of enemies' strengths and weaknesses. For example, the two main enemies you will encounter on the streets of Perez Park are Skulls (west side) and Hellions (east side). Skulls are resistant to Dark Energy; Hellions are resistant to Fire. Thus, if you are playing a Fire Tanker and want to find the mobs you can burn down as quickly as possible, you should concentrate on Skulls because they will take more damage from your attacks and go down more quickly. If you are playing a Dark Scrapper or Dark Blast Defender, however, you would be better off concentrating on Hellions.
Some enemies have weaknesses that can be exploited to take them down even more quickly. For instance, Freakshow are weak against energy attacks--so if you have an Energy, Electricity, or Radiation Blaster/Corruptor, Energy Melee Tanker/Brute, Robotics Mastermind, or Peacebringer Kheldian, you will find you have an additional advantage in hunting Freakshow or taking Freakshow missions. You should try to avoid, as much as possible, mobs who are strong against your attacks, because they will take longer to take down--and also avoid mobs who have attacks against which you are weak.
It's no secret that many City of Heroes character classes and power sets complement each other. This was largely what the developers intended when they created the game, to give people more reasons to adventure together: Tankers get the enemy's attention, Scrappers beat on them up close, Blasters zap them from afair, Controllers hold them down, and Defenders grease the wheels of the machinery and perform necessary repairs.
But there are certain power combinations that provide a higher level of synergy than the average--powers that stack with other classes' powers, or make other powers easier to use or more effective. If you can find such a combination, it will make advancement for the both of you that much easier.
Of course, the usefulness of this technique is somewhat limited, since it is not always possible to find a "perfect" match among random players looking for teams. However, if you and a friend are starting characters at the same time, you might want to consider choosing a complementary pair.
The following are some combinations that I have thought of or seen in play, or have been suggested by readers. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list; you will probably figure out other good combinations on your own.
Defense Melee Classes (Super Reflexes, Icy Armor, Stone Armor, or Energy Aura) plus Force Fields: After the Defense nerfs of Issues 5 and 6, Defense-based melee classes were a bit down; their Defense was what they depended on to survive and as of I6 they had less of it than ever before. This has largely been alleviated by the changes to Defense calculation in I7. However, an application of fully-slotted Force Fields can still make a good thing even better--all the more so if there's a second bubbler around to double-stack them. In fact, any decent team with two active bubblers on it will be pretty nearly invincible, and should put Defense-based characters at or near the 45% effective Defense cap.
Fiery Aura (Tankers, Brutes) plus Dark/Dark (Defenders, Corruptors): Since I5 and I6, the Burn patch--formerly the Fire Tanker's mainstay--has become progressively less powerful and harder to use. (It has subsequently regained a bit of power through the I7 inheritance technology that lets it be affected by damage buffs that are on the caster when it is cast, but this still does nothing for its panic invocation.) All the same, it can still be a decent part of a Tanker's (or Brute's) arsenal with the help of a Dark/Dark Defender (or Corruptor), whose Tenebrous Tentacles can lock down a crowd and whose Tar Patch can make them take more damage from the Burn patch (and Combustion, Fire Sword Circle, and Blazing Aura). In addition, Shadow Fall provides a boost to damage resistance from Energy and Psychic attacks, Darkest Night means the Tanker takes less damage in general, and Twilight Grasp makes a good backup heal to the Tanker's own Healing Flames. The same can also be said for */Dark Masterminds, especially Necro/Dark, but they will have somewhat less control since it is their pets/minions that have the tentacles rather than themselves. Another good partner for a Fire Tanker might be a */Sonic Controller, who will also be able to lock the mobs down and debuff their damage resistance, plus increase the Fire Tanker's own with his sonic bubbles.
Minor Synergies: There are all sorts of minor synergies that may not necessarily increase XP per minute but can at least make things easier. For instance, Force Field, Kinetic, and Sonic characters with the repulsion powers are handy with ranged-attack Masterminds (Mercs, Bots); Sonic Resonance's Disruption Field would work well with melee-attack Masterminds (Necro, Ninja)--especially since it's a toggle that can be placed right on a minion.
10) Rapid Mission Completion
It has long been known that burning quickly through missions you can do over and over could be useful in powerlevelling; the hall-of-shame Kora Fruit and the current newspaper-farming powerlevelling techniques are only the most obvious examples. It is common sense that the more of those large end-of-mission XP awards you can cram into the same amount of time, the bigger your overall XP per minute will be.
However, you don't have to get together a full team and disband it at every mission in order to do this. Repeatable missions can easily be harnessed for reasonably fast XP gain in soloing or duoing. All you need to do is take a mission that you can complete as quickly as possible and repeat infinitely, and then do it again and again and again. If you can stand the monotony of doing the same mission over and over, you can grind out the levels pretty quickly.
As it stands, there are currently three sets of infinitely-repeatable missions in the game: City of Heroes's level-40-plus Shadow Shard contacts (including Kora Fruit), City of Villains's Newspaper/City of Heroes's Police Scanner, and the PVP zone missions.
Barring Kora Fruit and Nemesis hostage-rescue missions, most Shadow Shard missions are probably not as suited to this technique as the others due to taking an excessive length of time to complete, even solo. The best missions possible (except, perhaps, for Stalkers) used to be the PVP zone missions because their end-of-mission bonus was 25% higher than the same level and difficulty of mission outside of a PVP zone. However, this was apparently being abused, so it was limited to one bonus reward every 30 minutes starting in Issue 8.) The "destroy the supply depot" PVP-zone missions are the best candidate, as they do not seem to have lieutenants or bosses in them at all when soloing or duoing on Heroic/Rugged/Invincible (1/3/5). (It used to be that the bomb defusal or planting missions were considered the most desirable, due to the extra XP provided by the clickable bombs; however, during I6 the XP award was removed from these items in favor of doubling their provided Influence instead.)
Stalkers, or other fighters with good stealth (or a stealth temp power) or superspeed, may find the newspaper missions more lucrative--particularly the "steal item" or "defeat boss and underlings" missions, which only require that the last room be cleaned out and do not require leading a hostage back to the entrance. Thus, one can sneak all the way to the end, quickly clear the room (especially on Heroic/Villainous where the Boss will be a Lieutenant), exit, and proceed to the next mission. Energy Aura Brutes are particularly good at this, having the stealth power to get to the end and the damage and defense to clear it easily once they get there.
These missions are best done on the Heroic/Rugged/Invincible (1/3/5) levels of difficulty--the ones that only spawn the normal quantity of mobs--with just one or two people. More people and other difficulty levels will spawn lieutenants or even bosses, making the missions that much harder (especially for the Longbow PVP-zone missions).
Note that you can get the most out of this technique when you combine it with playing to your strengths and the enemies' weaknesses, as above--when given a choice, take missions against enemies you're strong against, rather than weak against, and you'll complete them even faster.
Note also that rapid completion is good for more than just repeatable missions. A stealthed Scrapper or Brute can easily speed-stealth any mission that does not require defeating all or rescuing/kidnapping a hostage, and can quickly fight his way through even those. If you complete as many of your regular contacts' arc missions as quickly as possible, you will receive the larger end-of-arc bonuses more frequently, as well as the end-of-mission bonuses, which works out to higher XP per minute and a faster levelling rate. This will also allow you to complete more of your contacts' arcs without outlevelling them due to the XP received for defeating all the enemies inside the missions.
11) Double XP Weekends
As of the writing of this section of the guide, there have been three "double XP weekends," whereby all numeric rewards (XP, Inf, Prestige, etc.) are doubled from Friday morning to Sunday midnight. Obviously, this also doubles the effect of every other powerlevelling and poweradventuring tip in this guide. Keep an eye out for the announcements of these weekends, and be prepared to take full advantage of them when they come.
<span>DEBT CLEARED FOR EXEMPLARY CONDUCT</span>
Exemplaring has several very handy uses for debt removal. The most obvious is, of course, that by exemplaring, you artifically become a lower level--so you can apply the "High-Low Game" or other powerlevelling techniques to getting debt removed instead of to gaining XP. (Exemplar to a low-level character teamed with a higher-level character; let the higher-level character do the hunting while you earn debt-clearing XP as if you were the lower character's level--as long as you stay within 300' of the mobs, of course.) But there are a couple of creative twists that may not be so obvious, and they are both based on the fact that the "High-Low Game" level-based XP adjustment does not just apply to mob kill XP, but to end-of-mission XP as well.
These techniques do not work as well as they used to, given the 3-level cap imposed on end-of-mission rewards in I6. Where you used to be able to get double, triple, or more the usual amount of debt worked off as you would have gotten XP, now it's more like 140% or 150%. But that will still provide a slight boost, which won't hurt.
1) A-Hunting We Will Go
I originally stumbled onto this technique by accident. I had taken a mission to hunt Banished Pantheon in Dark Astoria at level 29, and exemplared to some level 22s to get the job done because I couldn't find anyone my own level to help me hunt. When the end-of-mission bonus came through, it was so high that it almost entirely cleared my debt. This was when I first realized that when you exemplar down to complete a mission, the game thinks you completed a mission as many levels higher than your own level as the number of levels you exemplared down (to a limit of 3 levels' difference, since I8). Not only does the entire experience reward go to debt-busting, but it is also multipled by a decent amount over the amount it would otherwise have been--and since XP debt is nothing but negative XP, this means that you have effectively multiplied your positive XP benefit (in terms of XP earned later that doesn't have to go to pay off debt) from that mission. Also, the Prestige bonus you receive (if in Supergroup mode) is also increased--so even if you have no debt, it might still be worth doing if you're willing to sacrifice XP to build Prestige for your supergroup more quickly.
Before the 3-level cap, this was probably the easiest method of clearing debt I had ever discovered. After all, defeating X mobs is just as easy to do if you're level 16 defeating level 16 mobs as if you were level 20 defeating level 20 mobs; the only difference is you got a bigger reward at the end. Almost without exception, every new contact you make will offer at least two and often three "hunt X mobs" missions the first few times you first speak to him, and at least one of those is usually a "hunt this type of mob anywhere." So, if you get a "Hunt Council Anywhere" mission from a contact in Independence Port, you can exemplar down a few levels and hunt them in Steel Canyon (or on a few-levels-lower character's Council indoor mission) instead. If you get mobs that don't spawn below your own level, or have to be hunted in a specific high-level zone, you simply need to find a buddy your own level to do the actual hunting (or at least to defeat the last mob; you get the same end-of-mission bonus whether you defeated all the mobs while exemplared or just the last one, as long as you waited for the XP freeze timer to run out before defeating the last one) while you're exemplared to another buddy several levels lower.
Note that this technique also works for the XP bonus from "Fed-Ex" missions--missions that involve taking something to or getting something from a particular contact.
2) "Don't Blinkie Or You'll Miss It!"
A slightly less easy but more convenient variation on the same technique can be used when you are doing a mission which has interacting with one or more glowing, blinking objects (colloquially known as "blinkies" or "glowies") as one of its mission goals and you have at least one character who is up to 4 levels below the highest-level member in your party. You can tell these missions because after you enter them they usually have "Retrieve 2 files" or "Destroy 8 crates" or some other "do something to X objects" message in the subtitle under the main mission goal. (You can also use this technique when you have to "rescue X hostages" but it's a bit more difficult.) Why are these missions so important? Because having that blinkie there essentially gives you control over when the mission gets completed.
So, while you are doing this mission, it is important to leave at least one blinkie untouched until after you have cleaned out all the other mobs in the map (or in just the boss room, if it's a "defeat named boss and his minions" mission, or a steal-item newspaper misson). Or, conversely, if it's a kidnapping mission, stop about twenty feet before you get to the exit door. Make sure the other members of the team know and agree to this stipulation going in, or else the mission might be ended prematurely. After the map is cleared, it is time to rearrange sidekicks and exemplars. If you have at least one team member who is up to 4 levels below the others, there are two basic tricks you can do with this.
The most obvious is to let the lowbies unsidekick for a higher XP bonus. This can add 40 to 50% to the amount of end-of-mission experience they receive, and that isn't bad at all. If nobody on the team has debt or a pressing need for more Influence, this is the extent of what you will do.
The other trick is a bit more devious: exemplar a team member to an unsidekicked lowbie. This gives the exemplar debt-clearance (or Influence) as if they had just completed a mission a number of levels above their own equivalent to the amount they exemplared down. As with the exemplared hunt method above, this can clear 40-50% more debt than without exemplaring.
IMPORTANT: After sidekicking and exemplaring has been arranged, you must wait for the XP freeze timer (which prevents people from almost-killing a mob and then exemplaring to get big XP gain for it) to run out before clicking the blinkie and ending the mission! You must wait at least 1 full minute to clear the timer.
You can actually make use of a modified version of this technique if you are soloing. Simply get to the point where you would need to exemplar in order to clear the mission, then find someone an appopriate number of levels below you. Get them to join your team and have them type /ex YourCharacter'sName into their text box. Once you're exemplared, wait the full minute then complete the mission--the other person doesn't even have to move from wherever they are. Once that's done, the other person can leave the team and you can continue on as usual.
IS THERE LEVELLING AFTER 40?
Most of the techniques in this guide so far have been aimed at powerlevelling someone who is relatively low-level. However, once the powerlevellee gets into the last ten levels of the game, things change a bit: with each level closer you come to the level 50 ceiling, the high-low powerlevelling game becomes progressively less effective. Going from level 49 to level 50 can take a very long time.
This section will look at a couple of the specialized methods that have been found to work for levelling after 40 in City of Heroes.
1) The 40+ Grind
There really isn't any "magic bullet" for getting through the 40s to 50; the only thing that can be done is to apply the same techniques that have already been covered, accepting that those techniques grow less effective as the range between your own level and the highest possible level who can help you shrinks. Since the largest benefit of most powerlevelling techniques relies on that range, by the time you reach the late 40s you will find that simply grinding through challenging adversaries and missions (but not challenging out of proportion to the XP they provide) is the most effective form of levelling you can do.
With Issue 7, the availability of PVP-zone missions in Warburg has been extended up through level 50, so that now both heroes and villains on the 40-50 grind can grind out these missions to their hearts' content. Likewise, hunting in Recluse's Victory with the aid of a Heavy (during off-peak hours when it is relatively safe to do so) makes whacking mobs as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.
But what are some things you can do if you'd rather stay out of PVP zones?
One technique, for heroes, is to play the High-Low Game in the Storm Palace, the farthest zone of the Shadow Shard, accessible only to heroes who are level 44 and up. This is where the highest-level free-roaming Rularuu can be found. If you have a good level 50 Lethal-damage (such as Katana or Broadsword) Scrapper who can deal with Psi attacks (Regen, Dark, and Super Reflexes seem to be the best at this) and focus on Wisps (which are weak against Lethal) you should be able to earn XP at a decent rate (not to mention collect many L51-53 Enhancements, which can be either used yourself or traded to someone who can).
Thanks to the new portals that were added in I5, the Storm Palace is easier to reach than ever, so that is no longer an obstacle to your adventuring. However, thanks to the non-Wisp Rularuus' heavy resistance to damage and all the Rularuus' many annoying mezzing and debuffing powers, the Rularuu are hands-down the toughest and nastiest mobs in the game--unless you are able to stick to Wisps exclusively, the XP reward is often not worth the hassle of obtaining it. And this method became much more dangerous with I4, since the lower-level character now has to stay fairly close to the higher-level character while they fight, and I5, since the lowbie can no longer rely on Phase Shift to stay safe.
Fortunately, there are better ways...
2) In With Flynn (and Volkov) (hero side)
In Mole Point Charlie, standing not too far away from Dr. Huxley of the Kora Fruit, is Colonel Flynn, another member of the Shard Expeditionary Force. It is necessary to do a couple of missions for Dr. Huxley before Flynn will speak to you. When he does, Flynn will offer you a choice between two of the following three types of missions, located in the Cascades, in a never-ending stream:
Defeat 50 Nemesis or Circle of Thorns
Raid a Nemesis base and destroy crates
Raid a Circle of Thorns cave and free hostages
Lieutenant Volkov is another contact, in Firebase Zulu, who is obtained by doing some missions for General Hammond. He offers a choice of three timed missions to rescue soldiers, in the Firebase Zulu zone:
A small Nemesis base, with a 45-minute time limit
A medium-sized Nemesis base, with a 60-minute time limit
A large cave system full of Rularuu (which probably should be a Nemesis base, but isn't for some reason), with a 90-minute time limit
What makes Flynn and Volkov so valuable is that these are the only non-Rularuu missions you can reliably obtain in the Shadow Shard--and thus the easiest missions you can reliably obtain in the Shadow Shard.
Ignore the hunts (though they can be useful if you have debt and a lower-level character handy for an Exemplar). Get yourself a good Level 50 Scrapper (or other damage dealer(s)) with mission difficulty set to Unyielding or Invincible. Have him take the base/cave raid missions from Col. Flynn or the timed missions from Volkov (Volkov's missions tend to be easier to get to without travel powers, being located in Firebase Zulu) and go along with him. At Unyielding, the missions should be full of a lot of L52 and a sprinkling of L53 mobs, which provide a decent amount of XP but can be put down decently quickly. The end-of-mission XP bonus doesn't hurt either.
Let the damage-dealer do his thing while you help as best you're able while not getting killed. (If you're 48-49 and a damage-dealing-or-tanking class, you can probably do this reasonably effectively. Otherwise, you should still be able to buff or heal from the sidelines.) Even at level 49, it is possible to earn two bubbles' worth of XP per hour in this way if you and your mentor keep at it constantly.
If you are able to get a full-sized team together to run these missions (in accordance with "Safety in Numbers" above), the gain should be even faster.
Needless to say, you can also run any of the level 50 character's missions from normal contacts and get similar XP benefits, but Flynn and Volkov's missions are uniform with no nasty surprises and will never run out.
DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME...IN FACT, DON'T TRY THIS AT ALL
After thinking about this for some time, I concluded that this guide wouldn't be a truly "comprehensive" guide if it didn't look at some of the less legitimate methods of powerlevelling--the ones that may violate TOS or, at the very least, draw an especially large portion of ire from other players if they find out you're using them.
I am NOT condoning or recommending any of these methods. I am simply listing them in the guide in keeping with my goal of a reference guide about powerlevelling in all its forms, legit and not. I should note that only two of these methods are actually illegitimate as per the terms of service; double-boxing is a perfectly legitimate method of levelling, if you have the money to support it--however, some people still do regard it as cheesy, so it may not make you many friends.
What do these methods have in common? Money. Real-world cash money, not Influence. Whether people are paying extra monthly to double-box, or are buying stuff on eBay, they are parleying dollars into an in-game advantage. Many players, even those who aren't opposed to non-monetary methods of powerlevelling, don't like that at all, because they feel it spoils the egalitarianism of the game. They believe an MMORPG should be a level playing field, where everyone has an equal shot at success or failure. Buying one's way in with real-world money introduces an external factor that not everyone is able to apply equally. (The buyers will argue in return that they are not able to apply the same amount of time to the game as the non-buyers, so the field isn't level to begin with, but it isn't the point of this guide to argue the case.)
Double-boxing, or dual-boxing, takes its name from the fact that you have two computers, "boxes" in geek parlance, that are each running a City of Heroes account. (Or it may be because you had to buy two "boxes" of the software to play the game on both computers, but I think the other explanation is more likely.) Unless you have four hands, you are only actually playing on one of them at a time; the other is in "zombie" mode with a character either left in a safe spot or slaved to follow you (and perhaps auto-spam attacks, buffs, or heals while doing so). You then use whatever powerlevelling tricks you like from earlier in this guide, using the higher-level character that you're playing to level up the lower-level character. This is a favorite method of some of the fastest PL'ers.
The advantages include that you never have to worry about finding someone willing to PL you--just a bridge to bring the lower level character into PL'ing range, if that--and you get double the usual number of characters per server. The disadvantages include that you're paying twice the usual amount per month, and your characters are split between two different accounts.
Of course, this method could also be used if a friend or family member were to give you access to his account for a while, as with one of the eBay methods of powerlevelling below, but that would technically be a violation of Section 3 of the Terms of Service. (A violation everyone whose kid, spouse, significant other, or roommate makes a character on his account commits, but a violation all the same.)
Unlike the other methods in this section, there is nothing in the EULA (that I know of; I'm not a lawyer so don't take this as legal advice) against double-boxing, as long as they're both your own account. It's a completely legitimate technique; I'm just listing it here because it has the money factor in common with the others. However, if some other players find out that you do it, you may earn yourself a special place on their personal schist-lists. Even players who condone ordinary methods of powerlevelling may not be terribly fond of people who do it with money, "legit" or not.
Aside from never-opened game boxes and time cards (both of which are perfectly legit), there are at least four City of Heroes-related things you can (but should not) buy on eBay: used accounts, Influence, loot such as Hamidon or Invention Enhancements, and powerlevelling services.
Accounts might be sold by people who powerlevelled their character to 50 with the intent to sell, or people who just want to get out of the game and move on to something else. Influence is often sold by level 50s who no longer have anything to do but earn money. Hami-Os are sold by the same people, taking advantage of the fact that Hami-Os are relatively easy to come by these days. Powerlevelling services are sold by people who are really good at PLing because there's money in it. (And quite a bit of money, too--last I checked, the fee for PLing a character from L1 to L50 was around $800!)
All of these violate the City of Heroes terms of service.
Selling accounts falls under Section 3 of the City of Heroes EULA, which states in part, "You may not sublicense, rent, lease, loan, or otherwise transfer the Software for profit." Sales of Influence or loot are forbidden by Section 6, which indicates that everything on City of Heroes servers is the property of NCSoft, so by selling it you're actually selling something that isn't really "yours" to sell. And powerlevelling services--which work by you temporarily giving the service-runner access to your account--fall under Section 3 as well.
Don't fall into the trap of thinking, "Oh, they'll never know." NCSoft runs the servers. They can track what IP address you regularly connect from, not to mention whether the name and address on the account should suddenly change. They can see if the same IP address shows up on lots of different accounts. It would be easy enough to set up scripts to watch for changes in these things and flag the accounts for investigation.
If NCSoft determines that you've bought an account on eBay, they will cancel that account--no ifs, ands, or buts. This is why it is so important to make sure, when buying CoH on eBay or other on-line flea markets, you're buying a sealed box, not one someone's already been playing. Even if you delete all the characters on the account and start new ones, NCSoft will still cancel it. This is a certainty; I've read forum posts from people who bought accounts on eBay and deleted all the characters, only to have the account cancelled when it came out how they got it. Even if NCSoft did not delete the account, the original seller of the account could regain control over it at any time by using the serial number on the game to access it. I'm less certain that they'll cancel you for using a pay-PLing service, but I wouldn't take the chance (or spend the money, for that matter--the rates those services charge are highway robbery!).
As to whether CoH watches Influence or Hami-O auctions to try to divine the in-game identities of sellers and buyers, this is unclear. It seems like it would be a petty thing for NCSoft to spend manpower tracking down, but I wouldn't take the chance--especially since the need for extra Influence vanishes entirely once you have a character in the late 30s, and Hami-Os are easily acquired by the time you're actually able to use them.
Often, when I'm asked by someone to powerlevel him, or asked for tips on the best way to get powerlevelled, I'll plant my tongue firmly in my cheek and say, "Make a really good friend around your own level, then go away and play another character for a few weeks--then come back and get your now-higher-level friend to help powerlevel you." I can say this because in all likelihood someone who wants to be powerlevelled is going to be way too self-centered to be able to make many friends--and if he's trying to make them them only so they can powerlevel him later, it's even less likely. The dichotomy is that someone who wants to powerlevel himself instead of relying on others is probably the most likely to be able to make friends along the way who will want to help him.
Some of the techniques I've recommended may seem slightly mercenary--but hey, nobody is ever 100% altruistic anyway. Is there really a difference between inviting someone to a team because he's higher level than you so you get bonus XP, and inviting someone to a team because you need his help to beat a tough mission? Is it "taking advantage" if all parties involved still have fun? Mercenary or not, the low man in a Task Force will still give his all to seeing that the Task Force succeeds, because he has the same stake in it everybody else does--and that benefits everyone.
I hope that this guide sparks some worthwhile discussion. If folks have any other tips or observations about powerlevelling, poweradventuring, or debt removal, I hope they'll post them; likewise, if folks have any corrections or clarifications, I'd be happy to incorporate them.
<span>POWERLEVELLING HALL OF SHAME</span>
This section looks back at rapid XP gain techniques that used to work, before the developers added patches to make them less possible.
1) "By Grabthar's Hammer, You Shall Be Avenged!" or "Stop Dragging My Corpse Around"
From v3.0 of the Guide:
There is a trick that I have heard described on City of Heroes forums using Vengeance, the fourth power in the Leadership power pool. Not a toggle like the first three Leadership powers, this is a click with a fairly lengthy recharge time that is activated by using it on a fallen team member; it immediately provides big Defense and other bonuses to the still-living members of the team. (Note that the power description suggests it has to be used when the person who has the power dies, but this was changed in beta and is no longer accurate.) I have not actually seen this power in use, but do plan to get it eventually and try it out.
The trick involves getting two or more people with Vengeance and at least one with Recall Friend on the team and and inviting a lower-level player (within the 9-level XP window) to the team. The lower-level player is then allowed to be defeated, and left that way--he does not revive, just lies there. Before each battle, the teleporter recalls him to their current location, then the two party members with Vengeance take turns (to ensure continuous group coverage) casting it on their fallen companion. The team is then able to beat up enemies remarkably effectively, and the defeated lowbie gets the debt worked off and then powerlevelled very quickly.
This technique will no longer work in Paragon City itself due to the new XP Range/dead XP gain timeout system introduced in I4, which means that dead characters will no longer receive any XP for group kills within a short period of time after dying. The XP range/death timer change is not in effect within missions, but most missions are small enough that the Vengeanced lowbie may not even work off the debt he took from dying, let alone gain powerlevel-worthy XP. However, there is nothing preventing a below-level-10 player from joining the team just to die; he will not earn any XP, but he will not accrue debt from the death either.
Also, during I6, Vengeance was changed so that it will not stack; only one casting of it will be effective at a time.
2) The Seasonal Event was the Event of the Season!
From v3.0 of the guide:
Every so often, City of Heroes has a Seasonal Event (related to holidays, anniversaries, and so forth) whereupon hordes of special mobs show up and start attacking the city, special temporary powers may be granted, and badges are given out. Some of these events can be lucrative powerlevelling opportunities.
For instance, the Winter event that took place over several weeks in January, 2005 featured a frequently-spawning Giant Monster named the Winter Lord. The Winter Lord would appear in the vicinity of five or six preselected spawn points per zone, get killed, and then spawn again right away. Unlike most mobs, Giant Monsters are worth a specific amount of XP per level, that does not change as the level of those who fight it goes up or down. This meant that if the Winter Lord was worth 2,000 points (note: I'm making these numbers up for the sake of the example; I can't remember exactly what the WL was worth) to a L50, he would also have been worth 2,000 points to a L20.
He would also have been worth 2,000 points to a L1, except that the devs had recently added a stricture that the maximum amount of XP that a character could get from any one kill was limited to 5 bubbles' worth at their current level. However, this stricture meant that a low-level character really didn't have to do that much damage to get his maximum benefit of XP out of a given monster. If a low-level character was limited to, for example, 200 XP points from a single kill, he (or his team) only had to do 1/10 of the total damage capacity to a 2000-XP Winter Lord to get the full benefit out of it. Up to about level 10 or so, it was quite possible to earn one level per two Winter Lords killed...and by the end of the event, Winter Lords were spawning in droves all over the place.
An awful lot of new players (and alternate characters of old players) were levelled up into their 20s on Winter Lord XP. The howling of the anti-PL contingent on the web boards could surely have been heard all the way over to World of Warcraft.
The developers have stated that the Winter Lord's cornucopia of XP was a big mistake, and one that they do not intend to repeat. As it is now, giant monsters provide little enough XP for the time that they take to put down that they tend to be considered not worth fighting.
It should also be noted that earlier, before the devs had emplaced the 5 bubble limit for monster XP, high-level players were able to get low-level players several levels of XP at once by fighting monsters in Peregrine Island with them.
3) "Just follow your nose! It always knows!"
From v3.0 of the Guide:
Much fuss has been made on the boards about Kora Fruit missions and Phase Shifting. Detractors are claiming that, the way Phase Shift currently works, Kora Fruit caves amount to a free pass to powerlevel; others reply that there's nothing wrong with Kora Fruit caves as they are now and powerlevellers are a relatively tiny percentage of the people who make use of them--and leave my Kora Inspirations alone, if you please.
For those who haven't yet reached level 40, a little explanation may be required. Kora Fruit is a kind of vegetation that grows in certain caves in the Shadow Shard, a set of zones restricted to level 40-plus heroes. Once you've done a couple of missions for Dr. Boyd, your second contact in the 'Shard, you will be introduced to a Dr. Huxley (located in Mole Point Charlie in the Cascade Archipelago). Dr. Huxley will send you on a never-ending chain of missions to gather Kora Fruit in caves (full of Rularuu, the zone's primary mob faction) that may have anywhere from 1 to 15 fruits in them. The fruits appear as "blinkies" in these missions--and in addition to fulfilling a mission goal, each blinkie you click gives you a 50%-effectiveness (that is, the largest of the three possible sizes of) Health, Endurance, Damage, Accuracy, or Defense Inspiration, provided you have room in your tray to receive it. A cave may contain all the same kind of fruit, or some of each of the five; Dr. Huxley will say which when the mission is offered.
Where the controversy enters into this is that it is possible to click on blinkies (and receive fruits) while Phase Shifted. Thus a character who has the Phase Shift power can go into a Kora Fruit cave, phase shift, and walk merrily around picking fruit for as long as his Endurance holds out while the Rularuu whiff ineffectually at him. Not only does the shifter get the 50% Inspirations essentially for free, he also gets the end-of-mission XP bonus--which is what the detractors focus on. It's XP for free, they say, available in a constant and never-ending stream. (NOTE: Dr. Boyd will give you a stream of "examine the monument" missions, another form of "click the blinkie" which you can do while phased--however, these are interspersed with "rescue the scientists" missions which do require fighting, so are not as reliable as fetching Kora Fruit.)
The problem with this theory is that doing one's own Kora Fruit missions with the hope of levelling really takes too long to be effective. Even assuming that you've worked up to be able to call Dr. Huxley instead of having to visit her in person, and even leaving aside the time it takes to travel from mission to mission in the Shard (which is one of the most difficult-to-travel areas in the game for anyone lacking teleport and/or flight), the XP-per-minute of soloing Kora missions simply isn't an effective way of powerlevelling. If you divide the end-of-mission XP bonus by the five minutes or more that it can take to clear all the fruits out of one of those twisty-turny caves, you begin to see that you can get much better XP by doing ordinary missions or just by street-hunting.
Of course, if you gather together four or five phase shifters in one place, and concentrate on doing the kora missions of the highest-level member of the group, missions can be cleared faster and the lower-levels can get the magnified end-of-mission XP for completing a higher level mission. But even so, I have my doubts that this XP gain is much (if any) more lucrative in terms of XP per minute than simply doing missions the old-fashioned way (such as the Flynn missions I will go over in a few paragraphs) with the same group.
That being said, I have a hard time justifying the ability to click blinkies while Phase Shifted. It seems like a pretty solid recipe for exploitation. While the exploitation is relatively benign (top-tier Inspirations for free, hoorah), I still wouldn't be surprised if, sooner or later, the devs take away the ability to click blinkies while phased.
Shortly after Update 3 went into effect, the developers added a "defeat boss and his minions" requirement to all Kora Fruit missions after the first one. This meant that the missions could no longer be completed without combat simply by collecting all of the fruit; a boss and minions had to be defeated as well. This may not necessarily be an obstacle to rapid completion by large teams; part of the team could go to the end and take out the boss while the rest collects the fruit (especially if they use the disband-and-scout trick discussed in "Farming the Newspaper" in the Powerlevelling section). Still, it requires more time and effort than the old way.
This change is actually a good thing for people who consider the availability of the fruit, rather than the end-of-mission XP bonus, to be the primary benefit of these missions--now they can collect every fruit in a mission without worrying about ending it, instead of having to leave one as in the past.
Three further changes took place during I6 and I7. Early on, phase shift was changed to have a 30-second time limit on its use, which will prevent its full-mission-long use as was done by Kora farmers in the past.
Shortly before Update 7, Kora Fruit missions were revised to only provide 2nd-tier (medium-sized) Inspirations, rather than the large version. With the forthcoming availability of supergroup base Inspiration storage lockers, the developers did not want them being filled to overflowing with maximum-sized Inspirations by Kora Fruit farmers. This makes Kora Fruit missions substantially less desirable to save and farm. Positron has promised that as soon as they have technology to make Kora Inspirations unstorable, they will return them to the maximum size. However, given the developers' varying priorities and multitude of features that need to be implemented, when or if this will happen is anybody's guess.
Finally, in I7, stealth and phase shift powers will now either suppress for ten seconds or be removed by the act of clicking on a glowing items, so even if Phase Shift were not on a time limit, it would be suppressed by the act of picking a fruit.
4) "Monster Ranching": Let's Get Kraken!
From v3.0 of the Guide:
For players in the 36-42 range, there is one source of XP available that is better than any other I have yet seen in the game. There is a monster who can be defeated who has the potential to be worth, depending on character level, literally hundreds of thousands of XP per defeat. Better yet, six of these monsters can be found together in one place! Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? Well, in some ways it is. I am referring to the infamous Abandoned Sewer Trial, otherwise known as the Hydra Trial. For this trial, it is necessary to get the mission from Maren MacGregor (trial contact 2 on this map) in Founder's Falls, traverse miles of Hydra, Rikti, and Circle of Thorns-infested sewers, defeat 150 Rikti there, get out of the sewers and back to Founder's Falls, then get all the way back into the heart of the sewers again--and that's just getting to the start of the actual trial itself! It can be a daunting task, but there are ways to make it easier.
In Update 4, the XP from Hatched Krakens was cut by 90% or more; reportedly the end-of-mission XP bonus has been increased to compensate, but I have not yet been able to complete the trial since I4 so I do not know if this is true, or if so how much the increase was. At any rate, it is no longer farmable for huge quantities of XP the way it was through I3. Also, though not directly related to using the Hydra Trial for powerlevelling, the loophole that allowed Controllers to hold the Hydra Head through the forcefield was closed.
5) Herding: Rikti Portal Milking
Whereas I5's defense cuts and target caps have reduced many forms of herding, the only one that has been made completely obsolete is:
Rikti Portal Milking was mentioned in a response by Humanist to a previous version of this guide. It is based on the fact that Rikti summoned through a portal created by a Rikti Communications Officer are worth full XP value for mobs of their type (unlike the demons summoned through demon-summoning portals in certain Circle of Thorns missions, which are worth nothing). Read the post for a complete explanation, but the technique involves aggroing every Communication Officer on a Rikti map ("The best way to aggro them is to simply walk up next to them unstealthed (but with other non-taunt defenses on), wait until they start the portal animation (won't take very long at all), then get out of there."), waiting 10-15 minutes (during which time you should defeat the groups of Rikti that have no Communications Officer to free up mob count), then going back and taking out the mobs that have teleported in while you were waiting. If you've done it right, enough mobs should have teleported in to hit the limit of the maximum number of mobs that can be generated in a single mission--and as you go around defeating the ones that have come in, more will spawn from the remaining Communication Officers as the count is freed up. Humanist points out:
Since the groups coming through are entirely minions, they give better xp/time than herding an 8-man wolf mission (once the killing starts). Also, it's unnecessary to gather a large team for these, both because the minions are easier to kill than the mixed groups and because the number of members you bring in does not affect the maximum number of mobs the mission can contain.
I have not had the opportunity to test this technique myself, but the theory sounds solid. The only caveat is that, considering the amount of time you have to spend as a whole (in terms of setting up the spawns), the XP/minute may not be as good as you could obtain by other methods.
In Issue 5, Communication Officers' portals were adjusted to spawn only a set number of Rikti, and in I6 the Rikti were changed to be worthless with the XP value in the portal instead.
6) PVP-zone hunting
From the I7 version of the guide:
No, not hunting for other heroes/villains, hunting mobs. A mob taken down in a PVP zone will provide 25% more XP than the same mob taken down in a non-PVP zone would. Also, mobs in PVP zones drop Enhancements at the drop rates for their maximum level--which means that a level 15 character hunting in Bloody Bay would get the frequent DO drops that he would if he were 25. As an added bonus for Masterminds, the auto-sidekick to level 25 in Bloody Bay means that they can summon all five of their minion- and lieutenant-class henchmen, even if they would not have access to them yet normally (this only applies outside of missions). Thus, hunting and herding in a PVP zone could be potentially more lucrative than the same behavior in a hazard zone. (Especially since City of Villains does not have Hazard Zones.)
In Issue 7 or 8, the 25% XP bonus for PVP-zone mobs was removed, making them normal in relation to the amount of XP given.
These other changes have also been rolled into the main guide itself, but since they fall into the area of closing powerlevelling loopholes, they merit a repeat mention here:
I3: Addition of ranged Disorient powers and mission timers to Wolf-herding missions in 40-50 arcs.
I4: Implementation of XP range/character death XP gain timers to curb powerlevelling in Paragon City areas: characters must be within 300' of a mob and dead for no longer than one minute to receive XP for the mob's defeat; these changes are not effective within missions (including outdoor missions).
I5: Phase Shift, Quantum Flight, and Nebulous Form have all been given limited durations (30 seconds to 2 minutes) of effectiveness, meaning that high-low game powerlevelees will have to rely on other means to keep safe. The devs seem to feel that these powers were intended only to be used for emergency escapes, not slipping harmlessly through entire missions and obtaining hard-to-reach badges. Also, Defense levels are cut across the board (with mob accuracies also decreased in partial compensation) and caps are placed on the quantity of mobs that can be affected by AoE powers.
I6: Enhancement diversification makes everyone less effective. XP-earning level spread is contracted from up to 9 levels to up to 5 levels and must (supposedly) be no more than 2.0 levels below team average. Glowing items within missions are changed from giving equal amounts of XP and Influence/Infamy to giving 2x the old amount of Influence/Infamy. Kora Fruit are revised to middle-tier Inspirations.
I7: Stealth, Invisibility, and Phase Shift powers will suppress for ten seconds (for toggles) or be removed (for one-shot buffs) upon clicking a glowing item. Structure of XP awarding in PVP zones is changed, making it less desirable to hunt PVE enemies there.
I8: PVP zone mission bonus XP reduced to once every half-hour. End of mission XP bonuses capped at +3 levels to the character.